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UNDER PRESSURE? Josh Heupel heads into second season with Vols

By: Dallas Bowlin

Senior Staff Writer

The All Vol Call in Show


Photo | Times Free Press

It’s no secret that the Tennessee Football fan base can be a bit harsh, and even set unrealistic goals and expectations. With that being said, they can also be very forgiving if they find you likable, or authentic. So, how much pressure is Josh Heupel feeling?

Coming into his first season as head coach last year, Heupel had five players named to the All-SEC preseason teams. This year, that number has risen to eight. To make matters more impressive, those eight were all on the team last year, which shows the positive development that those players have made under Heupel.

Before last season, Cedric Tillman was (for lack of a better term) a no-name guy, who excelled, and became arguably the best receiver in the SEC

for the upcoming season. Darnell Wright has seen his name show up in the first round in a few mock drafts this offseason after being seemingly absent in prior years.

Development is not an issue for Tennessee under Josh Heupel. As bright as the current outlook is for this season for Tennessee, the future beyond is even brighter. Heupel has been making big waves in recruiting, lining up an impressive 2023 class. The prized jewel of that class is five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava, the fourth-ranked* quarterback in the nation according to 247Sports player rankings.

Starring alongside Iamaleava, is four-star* edge rusher Chandavian Bradley, four-star edge rusher Caleb Herring, and four-star tight end Ethan Davis, among four other highly touted prospects. Lack of talent will not be an issue under Josh Heupel.

Finally, I want to touch on one more reason as to why I feel Josh Heupel is under very little, to no pressure at all. There has not been a football coach more relatable than Heupel at Tennessee for some while. His genuine personality, and willingness to engage with the fan base is guaranteed to lend him a longer leash among fans.

For a coach whose initial hiring left some fans scratching their heads, Heupel’s complete 180 when it comes to public opinion may be his biggest accomplishment to date...for now.


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