When Josh Heupel was hired as the Tennessee Vols‘ head coach in early 2021, there was some concern about his offense and whether or not it was too “gimmicky” for the SEC.

After one year of results, I think it’s safe to say that Tennessee’s offense under Heupel — gimmicky or not — can thrive in the SEC.

The Vols finished with the No. 7 ranked offense in the nation in 2021. That’s impressive on its own. But when you combine that ranking with the fact that Tennessee had the No. 109 offense in the nation in 2020 under previous head coach Jeremy Pruitt, then it makes that No. 7 ranking look even better.

An opposing head coach who played against the Vols in 2021 recently spoke to The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode about Heupel’s offense. And that coach, who is anonymous, made it clear that Tennessee’s offense is no joke.

Tennessee Vols
Nov 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) catches a snap during the fourth quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

“We did everything we could do to get ready for that pace, but you really can’t duplicate it,” said the opposing coach to Rexrode. “And they’re not just out there playing fast, they’re setting things up, they’re finding the matchups they want. Those (coaches) do a really good job. There’s no way it’s easy to get your kids to execute at that pace like that.”

The anonymous coach also noted that Tennessee is “an extremely talented and well-coached team”.

Look, the numbers don’t lie. And the comments from an opposing coach confirm what the numbers are saying.

The Vols’ offense is the real deal. And it should only get better in year two now that Tennessee’s players have had a full year to digest the offense and settle in.

Everything was new for everyone at UT in 2021. There was undoubtedly a learning curve — for players and coaches. But that won’t be the case in 2022. The rest of the SEC will have a much tougher time with Tennessee in 2022 than they did in 2021.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK