When Josh Heupel accepted the Tennessee Football head coach role in 2021, Heupel knew that it would be completely different from his start at UCF. How could it not be? Tennessee finished the year 3-7 in 2020. Whereas in 2018, Heupel took over a UCF team that just finished going 13-0 under Scott Frost.
“I think every job is different,” Coach Heupel stated at SEC Media Days 2021. “The players are different, but the recruiting landscape is different. The conference is different, as is the city that you reside in.”
To say every job is different may just be an understatement. However, in Heupel’s case, there are almost no similarities between the team’s previous years.
“Everything is so different,” Heupel continued on to say. “You look at the differences in wins and losses over the two programs that I took over. And, I think the other major difference in taking this program over is when we took it over. You know, I got there in January, our staff was there in the middle of February. You condensed seven months of work into five months of work really quickly by the time you get to June in recruiting.”
When Heupel took the Tennessee job, former UCF Director of Athletics Danny White had just accepted the same role at Tennessee. Heupel and White, during their time at UCF, were successful. Although, the definition of success to some may be somewhat fluid.
Heupel spent three years at UCF. In his first year with the Knights, Heupel went 12-1. Then, his next year in 2019, UCF finished 10-3. In his final year at UCF in 2020, Heupel went just 6-4.
However, Heupel’s experiences at other places, including a smaller football school like UCF, should create a very intelligent locker room at Tennessee.
“Our staff worked really hard,” Heupel said. “I think we’ve pushed forward in creating real relationships with our players that are going to pay dividends this season. But also, as we move forward, it’s allowed us to be real on and off the field.”
Josh Heupel’s comparison between Tennessee and UCF is ultimately just a launch point to where the Tennessee program could rise to with consistent leadership.