“A Dream Come True”: Velus Jones Jr. Talks Heupel Offense at Tennessee

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    Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. at SEC Media Days 2021

    Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. at SEC Media Days 2021.

    Wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. is ready for a brand new challenge with brand new optimism, as Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel installs his high-octane offense on Rocky Top. Especially with all the innovation that Heupel and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh have brought to the table.

    “I feel like a kid in a candy store,” Jones Jr. said at SEC Media Days about playing in Heupel’s offense.

    Josh Heupel’s offense at UCF during his three years was nothing short of a yard-eating machine. His offense ranked in the top five in yards per game among FBS teams in each year. In fact, Heupel’s offense ranked second among FBS teams in his final two.

    “This is a dream come true,” said Tennessee wide receiver Jones Jr. “Growing up as a kid, as a receiver, you dream about catching a lot of footballs.”

    Heupel, along with his offensive coaching staff, will have a lot of work on their hands to rebuild the Tennessee offense. The Vols lost their leading passer (Guarantano), rusher (Gray), and receiver (Palmer) from the 2020 roster. Meanwhile, even with those three players, Tennessee still finished ranked 102 among all FBS teams in total yards.

    For those counting, that’s a full 100 spots below UCF’s ranking last year. And for a returning player like Jones Jr., that’s a huge reason to have optimism for the season.

    “I’m so excited,” said Jones Jr. “I couldn’t even believe it when they announced coach Heupel as the coach.”

    Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. at SEC Media Days 2021

    Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. at SEC Media Days 2021

    Heupel’s offenses have been successful in SEC play, as well. Heupel, as the offensive coordinator for Missouri from 2016 to 2017, improved in two key categories during his one year with the Tigers.

    In 2016, Heupel’s offense ranked No. 13 in the FBS in yards per game. His offense accounted for 6.3 yards per play and was rated at No. 54 in the S&P+.

    Then, just one year later, Heupel raised his game. In 2017, his offense ranked No. 8 in the FBS in yards per game. He also bumped the other two key stats up to 7.2 yards per play and was rated at No. 24 in the S&P+.

    Josh Heupel’s fast-paced offense could allow wide receivers such as Jones Jr., Jalin Hyatt, and others to succeed in big ways. Tennessee will also need to get the tight-end position back on track, as well. Especially considering their two tight ends only accounted for 18 receptions last year.

    “I did my research,” Jones Jr. said about coach Heupel when he was first announced. “We’re going to have a lot of fun. Me and my receiving core, and the tight-ends, with this offense. I don’t know, I just feel like a kid in a candy store!”

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.