Heupel Wants a ‘Hostile Environment’, Supports #CheckerNeyland and Other Fan Gimmicks

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    Tennessee Checker Neyland

    Tennessee doing the Checker Neyland concept.

    Josh Heupel is well aware that Saturday will be the biggest game in Knoxville so far in his tenure. Not only will it be the return of former Tennessee HC Lane Kiffin, but it will be the two fastest offenses in college football going head-to-head. And by all accounts, Heupel knows that the fans will have an incredible impact on the game.

    During his Week 7 opening press conference on Monday, Heupel spoke about getting the fans to the stadium. In addition, he spoke about the concept of stadium gimmicks from the fans, such as checkerboarding the stands in Neyland.

    “Shoot, I’m into whatever our fans want to do on Saturday night for this one,” Heupel said after being asked about the Checker Neyland concept. “I think you want to play an exciting brand of football, you want to compete really hard, bring fans to the stands. I think we’re doing that right now. And then you want your fans to enjoy the moment, man. Saturday night will be a great environment, but need it to be a hostile environment.”

    Heupel went on to explain the importance of the fans and the energy and disruption that can come from the stands.

    “We need to make it tough for those guys to communicate,” Heupel said. “Our fans understand that they play with tempo and in their communication, so we need to make it loud and make it uncomfortable for them.”

    In past years, Tennessee has done the Checker Neyland concept for specific games, which essentially turns the stands into a massive checkerboard. Fans were instructed to visit the Checker Neyland website in the past, where an automated system would tell them if their section was wearing orange or white. After the Vols’ win against South Carolina, rumors started to circulate on social media about the potential of bringing back Checker Neyland for the Ole Miss game.

    “I’m looking forward to an electric atmosphere this weekend,” Heupel said. “We need everybody in orange and white at the stadium, be there early, be loud and make it a hostile environment for the opponent that’s coming in. A really good football team that we’re facing, in all three phases.”

    Tennessee (4-2, 2-1 SEC) will host No. 13 Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1 SEC) in Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. The SEC Network will have the broadcast at 7:30 p.m. ET.

    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.