Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel has a lot working against him when it comes to recruiting elite players to Rocky Top.

The Volunteers are coming off a 3-7 season and the program is facing NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations that occurred under previous head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Tennessee has also lost a litany of players to the transfer portal.

For those reasons, Heupel is going to get plenty of time to turn UT’s football program around. The former UCF head coach will certainly receive more grace than his predecessors at Tennessee.

But that doesn’t mean that Heupel will be absolved from criticism. He’s still a highly paid head coach at a prestigious university. And there are certain things that Heupel needs to accomplish as the Vols’ head coach — even with the tough situation he’s dealing with at Tennessee.

One of those “things” is landing four-star running back Jamie Felix, a 5-foot-10/195 lb all-purpose back from Kingsland, GA.

Tennessee Vols

Felix, who is rated as the No. 30 running back in the country (247Sports composite), reportedly has four schools out in front for his commitment — Florida, Tennessee, UCF, and Georgia Tech.

According to Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney, the Gators have several other players ahead of Felix on their recruiting board.

That means that Heupel and the Vols likely just need to beat out UCF (Heupel’s former employer) and Georgia Tech for the talented running back.

Those are two programs that Tennessee should absolutely beat out for a four-star recruit — even with the looming sanctions facing the Vols.

If Heupel and his staff can’t land Felix over UCF and Georgia Tech, then it would be a major loss and it would possibly foreshadow future recruiting troubles for UT under Heupel.

It might seem a bit absurd to consider a four-star recruit from southeast Georgia as a must-get player, but this is a recruiting battle that Tennessee should easily be able to win.

Heupel is the Vols’ head coach because the Vols were in a tough spot after firing Pruitt and they didn’t have a lot of other options. But regardless of how he got the job, he’s still the head coach at Tennessee. And Heupel still has to prove he can handle the job.

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