Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel was unsurprisingly asked about NIL deals and his relationship with NIL collectives on Thursday at SEC Media Days.

Heupel didn’t reveal too much, but he did note that he thinks it’s a good thing that players are able to profit off their name, image, and likeness.

The second-year Vols head coach was also asked about endorsing a collective like Kirby Smart has at Georgia.

Heupel didn’t endorse a specific collective, but he said he thinks coaches endorsing collectives in the future will be the norm.

Tennessee Football Coach Josh Heupel during a football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.
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“The current landscape and legislation, which I or none of the coaches have control over, we’re just operating in the space that we are [allowed to operate in],” said Heupel. “The collective piece of it is important and I’m just talking about our current roster — the amount of opportunities and deals that our current roster has.”

“I think it’s changed the way kids come into your program and how they approach things, too,” added Heupel. “It’s changed their decision-making process. For sure, the landscape of the collective is a big part of college football. And you’ve seen other people kind of endorse one entity.”

It appears that Heupel and Tennessee are being very careful when it comes to collectives and NIL deals. I don’t think they’re lagging behind in any way, but I do think they’re being cautious because of the NCAA’s ruling earlier this spring that deemed collectives as boosters, meaning they can’t have contact with recruits.

With Tennessee still awaiting a ruling from the NCAA on the investigation that started under previous head coach Jeremy Pruitt, it’s probably wise for them to take this careful approach.

However, it’s clear from Heupel’s comments that he understands the importance of collectives. And he knows that NIL deals are a major factor in decisions made by recruits.

Tennessee is simply playing it smart by staying away from publicly endorsing a collective…for now.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes once the NCAA rules on the investigation. Once that’s out of the way, Heupel will have a bit more freedom when it comes to discussing NIL deals and collectives.

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