Rocky Top Rekindled: The Revival of A College Football Powerhouse
By: Jake Hubbard
Junior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call In Show
Tennessee has been and is still regarded as one of the best college football programs in history. Although the Volunteers have faced diversity for what feels like decades, Tennessee remains one of the most notable programs in the country.
Dating back to General Robert Neyland, Johnny Majors, and more recently Phillip Fulmer, the Volunteers were feared on Saturdays and had the respect of most programs in college football. Once at the top, does Tennessee and Josh Heupel have what it takes to regain this respect and notoriety that it so strongly carried in the “glory days”?
Although Tennessee has had years of turmoil since the Fulmer days, seeing four head coaches from 2009-2020 (Lane Kiffin, Derrick Dooley, Butch Jones, Jeremy Pruitt), the Tennessee faithful have not wavered. Through historically erratic coaching searches, terrible Butch Jones quotes, and even the worst season in program history, one thing has remained; Tennessee is a loved and valued program by many. And those that valued this beloved program strived to claw this team, this University, and this state out of the depths of where the aforementioned head coaches had left them.
In comes Danny White and Josh Heupel. White has shown time and time again that he wants not only the football team to prosper, but the university as a whole. From track and field to the diving team, and baseball to water polo; Danny White likes to win, and he has made that evident in his time in Knoxville.
On January 27, 2021, Danny went with his gut and brought a familiar face to Tennessee: Josh Heupel. A head coach from a non-power five school, now at the helm of one of the most historically dominant programs in history.
Pairing his experience as a player (Oklahoma) and his success as an offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach at several programs (Oklahoma, Utah State, Missouri, UCF), Josh Heupel had plans of doing just that, dominating. Basically rewriting the offensive records books in only his second year at Tennessee, Heupel led the Vols to an impressive 11-2 season with notable wins over Florida, LSU (away), Alabama, and an impressive win over Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
Was it a fluke? Is Heupel the real deal? Can Tennessee replicate that success? I can’t answer those questions, but I can tell you this: the culture istransformed. I have been attending games in Knoxville for the past 25-30 years. I remember the days of Casey Clausen throwing game winners to Jason Witten. I witnessed Tennessee lose to the hands of Georgia State and BYU. Regardless of the wins, the losses, the history; there is a different feel on Rocky Top these days. If you have been to Knoxville in the last year and a half, you know what I am talking about. There is an astounding optimism, desire, and belief surrounding Knoxville that hasn’t been there in the recent past.
Coming off the record setting offensive season and handling Clemson easily in the Orange Bowl, I can tell you that expectations are sky-high onRocky Top. Tennessee not only wants to win, they expect to. Tennessee is striving for nothing less than excellence. This team, this university, this state is all in. The culture is electric. It is uplifting, and exciting. I can’t tell you the exact value of pi, how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, or why Jarrett Guarantano decided to do that quarterback sneak. But what I can tell you, Tennessee is excited… And Tennessee is back.
Photo Above | Tennessee Football on Twitter