KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel has been named the Football Writers Association of America’s co-winner of the Steve Spurrier First Year Coach Award.
Presented annually to the best coach in his first year at a school, Heupel shares the accolade with fellow SEC East coach Shane Beamer of South Carolina. Heupel becomes the first two-time recipient of the award. He claimed it in 2018 at UCF after leading the Knights to 12 wins, a Fiesta Bowl berth and a No. 11 final ranking in his first season.
“Well there are two coaches this year because they are both very deserving,” Spurrier said. “Preseason, their teams were picked next to Vandy at the bottom of the league, 12 and 13, but instead of gloom and doom they took their players and improved every game and both finished 7-6.”
Coming off a 3-7 record a year ago, Tennessee was picked to finish fifth in the SEC East standings in Heupel’s debut season. However, the Volunteers won three of their final four regular season games, secured third place in the SEC East with a 4-4 mark and posted seven victories to secure a bowl berth while playing one of college football’s toughest schedules. UT was one of only four squads to face both College Football Playoff title game participants.
The 27th head coach in Tennessee history, Heupel is one of only five Vol head coaches in the last 80 years to win seven or more games in his first season. UT shattered eight single-season team records under his watch, including points (511), total offensive yards (6,174), touchdowns (67), point after touchdowns made (67), total first downs (316), rushing first downs (164), fewest interceptions thrown (3) and passing efficiency (167.10).
For the fourth consecutive year, a Heupel-coached team finished in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense and total offense. The Vols put up 39.3 points per game (seventh in FBS) and 474.9 yards per game (ninth in FBS). That was a drastic increase in his first season, up from 108th and 102nd nationally, respectively, a year ago. Defensively, Tennessee racked up 102 tackles for loss, good for second in the SEC and seventh in the FBS.
A national champion quarterback in 2000, Heupel has maximized development at the most important position on the field his entire career. He coached multiple Heisman Trophy winners at Oklahoma and quickly developed Vol graduate transfer Hendon Hooker into one of the nation’s most complete signal callers.
In his first season, Hooker broke single-season school records for completion percentage (68.0) and passing efficiency (181.41). He led the SEC and ranked third nationally in passing efficiency en route to being a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award.
All-Time FWAA Steve Spurrier First Year Coach Award Winners
2002 – Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame
2003 – Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa
2004 – Mike Price, UTEP
2005 – Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
2006 – Chris Petersen, Boise State
2007 – Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College
2008 – Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
2009 – Chip Kelly, Oregon
2010 – Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
2011 – Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
2012 – Urban Meyer, Ohio State
2013 – Gus Malzahn, Auburn
2014 – Bryan Harsin, Boise State
2015 – Tom Herman, Houston
2016 – Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; Clay Helton, USC
2017 – Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
2018 – Josh Heupel, UCF
2019 – Ryan Day, Ohio State
2020 – Karl Dorrell, Colorado
2021 – Josh Heupel, Tennessee; Shane Beamer, South Carolina