Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel sees a big difference in his team this season as opposed to a year ago.

Heupel met with reporters earlier this week and he explained how players this year — specifically along the defensive line — are doing a better job of pushing and coaching each other.

“That defensive line group will be deeper than we were a year ago, which is important to us as a program,” said Heupel this week. “We have some young guys in that room that we feel like are going to have to help us. They’re going to have to go earn it here on the back half of training camp and before we get to week one. It’s important that those leaders inside of that room, the guys that you were mentioning, do a great job of pushing and coaching those guys.”

“This football team is so different than a year ago, where players are helping and coaching each other,” added Heupel. “That’s in the defensive line group where you see that, but that’s at every position too.”

This is just another example of how the Vols are progressing under Heupel.

A big part of being successful in the SEC is having a team full of leaders. It can’t always be on the coaches to push and motivate — sometimes that has to be a player-led deal.

It’s also something that has to happen organically. Coaches can’t force players to be leaders. They can be helped along, but the players ultimately have to make that choice.

Solid team leadership is a sign of a strong culture. And it’s clear that Heupel and his staff have completely flipped the culture at Tennessee over the last 18 months.

Featured image via Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics