DIALING BACK EXPECTATIONS: How Heupel becomes a success at Tennessee
By: Dallas Bowlin
(Junior Staff Writer)
The All Vol Call in Show
Josh Heupel suffered his first loss as the head coach of the Vols last Saturday against Pittsburgh, and after watching that game, I believe it’s time we all have an intervention of sorts. A brutal, open conversation.
I feel that fans may set their expectations too high for the program. I personally have never witnessed a Tennessee football National Championship, so of course, it makes me want to witness one that much more. The fact of the matter is though, we are far, far away from the program we were in 1998. Since 2010, the Vols are a combined 66-69, which is a 48.89% win percentage. Simply put, not great. To put that into perspective, Alabama is 137-15 with a win percentage of 90.13%, Florida is 89-50 with a win percentage of 64%., and Georgia is 108-38 with a 73.97% win percentage.
So, to expect a program that has won 48% of its games since 2010, and has had six head coaches since then, to be anything other than what we saw on the field against Pittsburgh, may be asking too much. I don’t want to be all ‘doom and gloom’, because I do believe Tennessee has brighter days ahead, and all I have to do to support my view is to point to running back Tiyon Evans (who missed the Pittsburgh game) put up 120 yards on sixteen carries against Bowling Green. While I am aware of the level of competition, I did get some very strong Alvin Kamara vibes from the way he ran and was able to slither off of linebackers and defensive backs.
Then there’s Joe Milton; and yes, he was pulled from the Pittsburgh game (due to injury per ESPN) after overthrowing a few receivers who should’ve strolled into the end zone for six, he does have a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, and his awareness isn’t that great, but the dude is a freak of nature. Quarterbacks are not supposed to be built like him. He has a cannon of an arm (maybe to his detriment) and is hard to tackle. His in-between game is pretty solid. He’s much more comfortable throwing the five-to-ten yard passes than he is the 20+ yard passes. If he stays bought-in, there’s no one he’s better suited to learn from than Josh Heupel.
To put it simply, Coach Heupel was behind-the-eight-ball when he arrived on campus. He took over a team with looming NCAA restrictions, a decimated roster, and a battered/abused fan base. From the outside looking in, Tennessee fans are delusional, living in their past glory years. but when you look at it from the inside, they simply just want to have fun watching their Vols again.
Coach Heupel has a lot of ground to make up, and maybe he’s not the guy who brings Tennessee back to glory and wins a national championship, but that should be ok. He doesn’t have to win a national championship to be a success at Tennessee. If you want to get to the top again, you need to start climbing up the mountain. If Coach Heupel can get Tennessee back to a respectable program, and can leave Tennessee in better shape than he found it, with a group of guys who understand the culture and genuinely love Knoxville, then he makes the job that much easier for Tennessee to attract a bigger name hire who could possibly bring the championship Vol fans so desperately want. That is how Josh Heupel succeeds at Tennessee.