It’s impossible to know after two spring practices whether or not the Tennessee Vols will be successful under new head coach Josh Heupel.
But we can at least tell if things are going well.
And so far, it appears that Tennessee football is moving in the right direction under Heupel.
The energy is different around the program. Heupel has almost instantly changed the mood of the team, as evidenced by a tweet from wide receiver Velus Jones on Saturday.
The energy at practice today was different!🥴🦾🍊
— Velus Jones Jr.⚡️ (@VelusJr) March 28, 2021
It probably helped that Tennessee had a surprise visit from an ice cream truck after practice.
The positive energy is carrying over to the team’s installation of the new offense.
Heupel’s offense is extremely unique. It’s an up-tempo operation that relies heavily on quick decision-making and crisp communication. The offense in 2021 will be a sharp departure from what the Vols ran under previous offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
Tennessee’s players, however, are adjusting quickly to the change.
Vols offensive coordinator Alex Golesh told reporters on Saturday that he’s been impressed with UT’s offensive line and how they’re picking up the offense.
“They have stood out in terms of learning it, seeing it, and executing it,” said Golesh of the offensive line.
Tennessee’s quarterbacks are also quickly picking up the offense according to Golesh.
“I think all three of those guys (Harrison Bailey, Hendon Hooker, and Brian Maurer) are doing a really good job of learning it and then being able to translate onto the field,” explained Golesh. “I think that’s the one position that you feel like you’re probably the hardest on, because it all starts there. But all three of those guys, they’re such different skill sets, they’re so interesting in what they’re good at.”
Fans should obviously temper their expectations in 2021. The Vols don’t have the depth needed to make a serious run in the SEC East.
But at the same time, I think there’s plenty of reason for optimism moving forward. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Rebuilding the program in the face of an NCAA investigation and potential scholarship losses will take time. Heupel will inevitably face some adversity as the head coach at Tennessee. But for now, it’s nothing but positivity for the first-year Vols head coach.
Tennessee desperately needs some positivity right now. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling good about where the program is after just a couple of spring practices.
Images via Andrew Ferguson, Tennessee Athletic Communications