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What Josh Heupel Said About Returning to Central Florida Area

Josh Heupel
Tennessee FB HC Josh Heupel. Photo by RTI.

Josh Heupel is no stranger to the city of Orlando.

The third-year Tennessee head coach is set to lead the No. 21 Volunteers on New Year’s Day against No. 17 Iowa in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl, taking place in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

The trip to Orlando has allowed Heupel and many members of the Tennessee coaching staff a chance to return home to a place they called home for a few years during the late 2010s.

Heupel was the head coach at Central Florida for three years from 2018 to 2020 before taking over as the head coach at Tennessee before the 2021 season. Heupel achieved a record of 28-8 during his time at UCF with a win in the Gasparilla Bowl to cap off the 2019 season.

This is a great city,” Heupel said on Sunday morning. “My family, myself, we absolutely love living here. A lot of our staff at Tennessee was with us here. It has been great to be back in this city. To the administration, Coach Malzahn at UCF, they were great and allowing us to go practice there.”

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Much of Tennessee’s staff including offensive line coach Glen Elarbee, secondary coach Willie Martinez, and offensive coordinator Joey Halzle were all on Heupel’s staff during his time at UCF. The Vols used UCF’s practice facility this week in preparation for the Citrus Bowl on Monday.

“Rode in the first day. Rode through campus,” Heupel said about being back in Orlando. “Get off the bus, you are sitting right next to the Bounce House. Get a chance to get on the practice field. It was a lot of fun because there was so many great memories that came back. Got a chance to talk with a lot of people that have been a huge part of my journey and our journey. It has been a great week. We had a night where we had, I don’t know, 25, 30 players that got an opportunity to come by the hotel and hang out it. Was a great night.”

While the trip to Orlando is sort of a homecoming opportunity for Heupel and others on the Tennessee coaching staff, there is still business to be handled. No. 21 Tennessee will take on No. 17 Iowa in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl at 1:00 p.m. on New Year’s Day from Camping World Stadium.

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