KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel, it’s about the vision.
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Danny White introduced Heupel on Wednesday afternoon as the Vols 27th head coach, the second time he has introduced the football coach as the face of a program.
“We had an exhaustive nationwide search. I know that sounds crazy because I’m hiring the guy I’ve worked with for the past three years,” White said. “We left no stone unturned.”
White thanked the other candidates he declined to identify, but did say he talked to head coaches, coordinators, long-seasoned coaches, and young up-and-comers.
“You’d be amazed how many we spoke with,” he said, noting the first two information leaks he’s encountered in his career happened in the past week. “We need to work on fixing that.”
A familiar face, and White’s top option, he says this job was offered to one person.
“Josh is in it for the right reason. He cares about student athletes. He cares deeply about their development as students, as people as athletes. That’s what we will be about here at Tennessee.”
White touts his former and now current coach’s ability to develop arguably the most important position in football, “One of, if not the best, developer of quarterbacks in college football.”
White also asked the current Volunteer roster what characteristics they wanted in a head coach, and they replied with, confidence, juice, and swagger.
“I think you guys are going to like the brand of football that you see. He encourages kids’ to compete in the classroom as well as on the field.”
“I want to thank Chancellor (Donde) Plowman, and President (Randy) Boyd, for your vision of what you want and foresee in athletics, and entrusting me and our family to mentoring and teaching these young men the game of life not just the game of football,” Heupel said during his introductory press conference.
Heupel also spoke of the aligned vision shared with university leaders and how exciting and important it is to have a shared common vision, and having that in leadership, great things are capable of happening.
“Everyone pulling the rope in the same direction. When you do those things, great things are capable of happening.”
He also brought up the importance of connection.
“You play this game because of connection. There’s got to be a sense of belonging, of brotherhood in that locker room. When you are connected you have a chance for love, and when you have love, you sacrifice for your teammates and this game is all about sacrifice.”
Heupel shares insight on what Vol nation will see on the field
The new coach didn’t hesitate to get started talking about what he and his past program have had great success in: offense. Heupel said he wants his team to play with tempo, aggression and put his skill players out in space to make plays.
“If you really watch what we do, we’re extremely balanced in our approach as far as to run and pass. We want to be physical and dominate the line of scrimmage.”
He also says that the aggressive mentality on offense will then carry over to the defensive side of the ball.
“We want to create negative plays. I think in the game of college football, offensively it’s about creating big plays, defensively it’s about creating negative plays and getting people off schedule. You put those two things together you’ve got a chance to have a really successful game plan and ultimately a [successful] season.”
‘Lifeblood here at Tennessee is recruiting’
Heupel also expressed the importance of recruiting. He says the most important thing to do is to lock down the state borders and keep talented in-state players coming to Rocky Top.
“We have to keep kids inside this state here. We have to do that inside of our own borders and that focus on in-state recruiting will come from me. Everybody’s got to bring energy and passion and create and sustain a positive movement through everything that we’re doing.”
“That’s one of the great things here you have a national name, national logo that allows you to go coast to coast and attract the biggest, the best and the brightest.”
The immediate future for Tennessee will also depend on keeping players from leaving the program. More than 15 players on the 2020 Vols roster have already announced their departure from UT.
“To the current members of this football program and this roster, we need to be a family, we need to act like a family,” Heupel said. “At the end of the day, a family is defined when push comes to shove that family stays together. Let’s stay a family.
“Give us a chance for our family to become connected. Let’s go have fun together, work hard, but go have fun together and compete.”
Q&A portion of Heupel’s opening press conference
“We’ll consider staff members from Central Florida, also current members on this staff. It’s important that we put together a staff and that we get the right people.”
“We will not recruit players off a roster I was [previously] a part of, I don’t believe that is the right thing to do.
Why did the current investigation not deter you from this job?
“I’m standing here because I believe in a very very bright future for Tennessee football. I believe there’s a minor speed bump we’re going through, but the kids that are in our program, and the kids that are being recruited are going to get a chance to play and chase championships.”
How will you install your scheme in one offseason?
“We’ve done it successfully multiple times in places I’ve been. Your coaches have to get caught up to speed, you’ve got to coach your coaches and then your coaches have to put time in with your players. Time, effort and energy. We will be able to get there, no question in my mind.”
What challenges do you expect after being hired in late January?
“The toughest part is getting a hold on what your roster actually is and what are the needs. Signing day as close as it is, all those vacancies that you want to fill, do you hold them, it’s a different landscape now due to the transfer portal.
Junior college football is taking place this spring, as you get through spring ball you potentially are going to need to fill different spots on your roster at that time as well and this cycle is unique than different cycles in the past.”
Relationship/working with Danny White
“For Danny and I, there’s great comfort in knowing what you’ll get out of the leader that you deal with the most. There’s a clear vision of what he wants for the student athlete experience and a clear vision of what he wants as an athletic department as a whole. It’s my job to make sure we’re getting this built to the level where we can go chase championships every year.
Qualities a quarterback needs to have to be successful
“We’ve had different guys play with a different skill set. We’ve had guys who were pure pocket guys, and guys who’ve been able to use their feet, and guys who’ve fallen somewhere in between. It’s about the makeup in the guy inside as much as anything.
How competitive are they? That’s extremely important. What drives them every day? Can they wipe the slate clean from the previous play? Can they meet the expectations and work habits you have to have?”
If you’re going to chase championships you better have a championship quarterback.”
On his family
“They woke up to a changed world today. They’re excited and a few tears were shed today but that changed when they saw the T on the plane. The first question my son was asked was to throw a football with Peyton Manning. He’s counting down the days.”