The Tennessee Vols‘ offensive success in year one of the Josh Heupel era has been incredibly impressive.
Over the first six games of the 2021 season, the Volunteers are averaging 41.5 points per game (which is No. 7 in the nation.)
Here’s how that compares to the first six games in each of Jeremy Pruitt’s three seasons as Tennessee’s head coach.
- 2020: 20.6 points per game
- 2019: 23.0 points per game
- 2018: 26.6 points per game
It’s remarkable how quickly Heupel has been able to transform the Vols’ offense from stagnant to prolific.
But the offensive production, while noteworthy, isn’t the most impressive thing that Heupel’s managed to do this season.
I think we all expected that Tennessee’s offense would be much better under Heupel. What’s been interesting to see is just how well-coached the team has been under Heupel’s guidance.
The Vols’ offense runs at an alarmingly fast rate. Heupel’s goal is to get opposing defenses off schedule, giving his offense an advantage. When a team runs as many plays as the Vols (UT is averaging 75 plays per game in 2021), there are more opportunities for turnovers. More plays and a faster pace usually equals more turnovers.
So far, that hasn’t been the case under Heupel, which is very surprising for a completely new offensive system.
Tennessee has played three SEC games this season. The Vols have yet to commit a turnover in a conference game.
That’s astonishing. And it shows that Heupel and his staff know how to coach. Implementing a new scheme and having it run as smoothly as it has at UT isn’t the norm in college football. More often than not, year one is an adjustment year for coaches and players (that’s not always the case, but it usually is).
Heupel, however, has managed to make an instant impact. I believe that’s because his coaching approach is battle-tested. He knows it works from his time in the trenches at Oklahoma, Missouri, and UCF. Heupel came to Tennessee with a clear plan. And he’s been implementing that plan since day one.
“I think a part of it is decision-making and comfort in what we’re doing,” said Heupel this week when asked about Tennessee taking care of the football. “I think part of it is protection. The quarterback’s doing a great job of taking care of the football too. Guys with the ball in their hands have done a great job.
“It’s something that we practice and rep every single day. It’s how we start our practices once we get done with our walkthrough. They’ve taken ownership of it. They’ve done a great job of taking care of it.”
There has been no learning on the job with Heupel like there was with Pruitt.
Heupel hit the ground running in Knoxville. And it shows in the stats.
Featured image via UTAD