Josh Heupel’s first stop in the SEC wasn’t his current job as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
Heupel spent two years with the Missouri Tigers as an assistant coach before he became a head coach at the University of Central Florida and the University of Tennessee. Heupel was the offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach at Missouri from 2016 to 2017 and had success making the Tigers’ offense into a national force.
Josh Heupel began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma in 2004, just four years after leading the Sooners to a National Championship victory. Heupel then became the Arizona Wildcats’ tight ends coach in 2005 before returning to Oklahoma as the quarterbacks coach from 2006 to 2010. Starting in 2011, though, Heupel added the role of co-offensive coordinator to his list of duties at Oklahoma, which he held until the end of the 2014 season.
Heupel then spent the 2015 season as the Utah State assistant head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach before heading to Missouri in 2016.
The Tigers paired Heupel with quarterback Drew Lock who was tremendous during his time in Columbia. Lock was third in the SEC in passing touchdowns in 2016, trailing only Arkansas’ Austin Allen and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs. Lock then became the SEC’s leader in passing yards, touchdowns, attempts, passing yards per attempt, and efficiency during the 2017 season.
Heupel and Lock led the Tigers to the 13th best offense in the country by the end of the 2017 season.
“When I think back to that time period, I think about the people first and foremost,” Heupel said about his Missouri coaching days on Wednesday. “A lot of people that were influential. Still have a lot of those people that are with me. Former players that played there. Young coaches that have been with me over the last six years. What we were able to build there from when we took it over to where we left it, really proud of what we did. And that only happens because you have quality people that are extremely competitive, but care about the people around them and there’s a lot of those players that I’m still in contact with that I see frequently or hear from frequently. It’s one of the great stops on my journey.”
Also on the 2017 Missouri coaching staff was offensive line coach Glen Elarbee, who is still with Heupel at Tennessee to this day. Additionally, Tennessee’s first-year tight ends coach Alec Abeln was a senior offensive lineman on the Tigers’ roster during that season.
Heupel and the Tigers lost to Tennessee 63-37 in Knoxville during the 2016 season but came back to win in Columbia 50-17 the following year.
Josh Heupel is 2-0 against Missouri as the head coach of Tennessee.
Tennessee won 62-24 in Columbia during the 2021 season and won 66-24 during the 2022 season in Knoxville.
No. 14 Missouri will host Josh Heupel and No. 13 Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday in a critical SEC East matchup on CBS.