Josh Heupel has done an outstanding job in his first season as the Tennessee Vols‘ head coach.

In just one season, Heupel has taken the Vols’ offense from one of the worst in the nation (No. 109 in the country last season) to one of the best in the nation (No. 11 in the country so far this season).

It’s clear that Tennessee is on the right track under Heupel.

However, there’s still one thing in particular that Heupel has to prove he can do.


The Vols currently have the No. 27 recruiting class in the nation. That’s not ideal with less than a month to go until the early signing period begins.

Part of the reason that Tennessee hasn’t recruited better is because of the difficult situation that Heupel inherited. An NCAA investigation has left a dark cloud over the program. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the Vols weren’t sure they’d have the opportunity to play in a bowl game this season (UT decided against self-imposing a bowl ban this season).

There’s also the fact that Heupel is trying to create a sustainable recruiting model.

Former Vols head coach Butch Jones recruited extremely well his first couple of years on the job. His last two recruiting classes, however, fell off dramatically. That’s because Jones promised recruits the world on the recruiting trail. Then when those players signed, Jones wasn’t able to deliver on his promises (just look at the Jalen Hurd situation in 2016 for example).

Jones’ method wasn’t sustainable. He sacrificed success on the back end of his tenure at Tennessee for immediate success.

Heupel is taking the opposite approach. He’s hoping that recruits will see the success that Tennessee’s having and want to be a part of it. It’s a more organic approach that can have long-term success.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit believes in Heupel and his ability to recruit. Herbstreit thinks the Vols will be just fine on the recruiting trail under Heupel.

“They’ve (Tennessee) become a fun team to watch and they’re going to recruit very well,” said Herbstreit this week on ESPN’s College Football Podcast.

“Tennessee is a stock that’s…going up,” added Herbstreit. “You’re going to want to buy that stock.”

Herbstreit is usually a detractor of Tennessee football. If he believes in Heupel’s ability to recruit, then fans should believe, too.

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