When Heupel took over at Tennessee, the program was at rock bottom. The Vols were coming off a 3-7 season and they were forced to fire head coach Jeremy Pruitt due to an NCAA recruiting investigation.
As a result of the poor season and the investigation, Tennessee lost numerous players to the NCAA transfer portal.
To say it was a less-than-desirable situation that Heupel took over would be an understatement.
But one thing that Heupel has never done is use the investigation and the unfavorable situation as a crutch.
Heupel has never thrown shade at Pruitt or the previous staff. He’s never complained about the investigation or the impact it has or hasn’t had on recruiting. Instead, Heupel has simply described the investigation as a speed bump.
Just take a look at the way Heupel answered a question on Sunday about the investigation.
“There’s been so much dialogue and communication between our administration and the NCAA, but also to us and where we’re at,” said Heupel. “So some of the things that hit publicly are things that we haven’t been able to talk about, that we knew was coming. And we’ve been very transparent and open with our current roster, our recruits. That’s why I think we’ve positioned ourselves extremely well. You look at some of the things that have come out of that, just the NCAA talking about us being a model of how to move forward for universities when they’re dealing with something.”
“That’s why I’ve said from the very beginning, it’s just a speed bump for this program. Between our administration, from Donde (Plowman) all the way down to Danny (White), and what we’re doing on the football side of it, I think we’ve positioned ourselves extremely well to swallow things up here early and be able to move and compete for championships here as we move forward.”
Instead of focusing on the negatives and blaming others, Heupel is looking at the positives. And that’s the right approach because once he became the head coach at Tennessee, whatever problems existed there became his problems. It doesn’t matter who is to blame for the problem — that’s irrelevant at this point — all that matters is that the problem is dealt with.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it shows Heupel’s maturity, leadership abilities, and his character. Tennessee has a head coach that handles himself the right way. He’s not going to embarrass the fan base. And he’s going to do right by the players coming into the program.
Combine that with Heupel’s ability to put an offense on the field that scores an insane amount of points and you can certainly see why Tennessee fans are so excited about the future.
Featured image via Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK