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Josh Heupel Favors High School Recruiting Over Transfer Portal, But Sees Advantages to Both

Josh Heupel
Tennessee HC Josh Heupel with 4* WR/TE Ethan Davis. Photo via Ethan Davis (@Davis1Ethan) on Twitter.

While speaking at the Tennessee signing day press event on Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel pulled back the curtain on the ways that the Vols are approaching the recruiting scene. And while talking about the subject, Heupel made it clear that he isn’t trying to build a transfer portal program moving forward.

As he was dissecting both sides of the recruiting landscape, Heupel revealed that he prefers to keep high school recruiting the main priority. This is mainly because of the importance that the Vols’  second-year head coach is putting on long-term program leadership and development.

“A majority of what we’re going to do is going to be through the high schools,” Heupel said on Wednesday. “I think you’ve got to bring in kids that are going to develop. That gives you stability and growth inside of your program. Gives you leadership inside of your program. There’s a culture piece to this game that is extremely important. I think that has to live within your high school kids that you’re recruiting.”

Of course, though, that’s not to say that the transfer portal doesn’t have its extreme benefits – and Heupel knows that. Tennessee has been very successful within the transfer portal under the Heupel administration. So have other teams, including Southern California, who now boast 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams after he transferred in from Oklahoma this most recent offseason.

“At the same time, because of the transfer portal, there’s things that you may need to patch inside of your roster,” Heupel continued on to say. “[The] portal and junior college give you the ability to do that.”

Vol Football Recruiting: Tennessee’s 2023 Recruiting Class During Early Signing Period

During his first offseason at Tennessee in the 2021 class, Heupel brought in 10 transfer players, including household names such as Hendon Hooker, Joe Milton III, Juwan Mitchell, Brandon Turnage, and Chase McGrath. Tennessee was in need of immediate quality pieces that year and Heupel found them via the portal. In the following offseason, though, that number dropped down to seven, but still included necessary players such as Bru McCoy, Gerald Mincey, and Wesley Walker.

As of Wednesday evening, the Vols only have four transfer portal players to the 2023 class: Keenan Pili, Andrej Karic, Charles Campbell, and McCallan Castles. It’s easy to see that as Heupel’s program continues to be built, there are fewer immediate spots that need to be patched up.

The Vols have 25 high school signees as of Wednesday evening in comparison.

Josh Heupel made it clear on Wednesday that while both the transfer portal and the high school scene are important, it is for different reasons. The transfer portal gives you the ability to patch, but the long-term growth and development come from the high school recruiting scene.

“But, at the end of the day, I think it’s about roster development and the development of your players inside your program and that starts with the high school kids that you’re bringing in,” Heupel said.

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