I don’t think folks show enough appreciation for what the Tennessee Vols did offensively last season.

And that includes Tennessee fans.

The Vols had the No. 109 scoring offense in the nation in 2020 under previous head coach Jeremy Pruitt. It was easily one of the most anemic offenses in the nation.

Pruitt was fired after the 2020 season in the wake of a recruiting investigation that rocked the program. Josh Heupel was hired as Tennessee’s head coach as a result.

Heupel faced a tough uphill climb the moment he accepted the job. The Vols were coming off a dreadful 3-7 season and numerous players hit the transfer portal, including running back Eric Gray and linebacker Henry To’o To’o.

But Heupel and his staff had a plan. And they executed that plan. Tennessee finished the 2021 season with the No. 7 scoring offense in the nation.

That’s completely insane.

Not only did Heupel have to install a new offense in just a few months, but he also had to change the culture at Tennessee, which soured in Pruitt’s final season.

Heupel took a new roster, installed a new (and very different) offense, and found a ridiculous amount of success.

Tennessee Vols
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) hands the ball off to Tennessee running back Jabari Small (2) at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.
Kns Tennessee Purdue

If 39.3 points per game are what Heupel and his staff did in 2021, what are they going to do for an encore?

I think a Tennessee offense that averages more than 40 points per game is extremely likely in 2022.

And the main reason is because there aren’t nearly as many unknowns surrounding UT football this fall.

Vols offensive coordinator Alex Golesh pointed out on Sunday during a media session with reporters that Tennessee is in a much better place this offseason thanks to the continuity in the program.

“What helps this year more than anything is going in knowing who your quarterback is,” said Golesh. “Going in and Jabari (Small) has a resumé on film. Cedric (Tillman) has a resumé on film. Those O-linemen that are coming back have a year of film and they have a resumé built.”

“You’re more likely to be able to throw a Dylan Sampson in at No. 1 running back knowing those reps for Jabari can be just as good mental reps as they can be physical reps. That’s where you can go in and feel a little more comfortable.”

Tennessee was pretty much adjusting as they went along last year and they still managed to finish with one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.

A full offseason of nothing but working to get better — instead of installing a completely new offense — should have the Vols’ offensive attack operating even more efficiently than it did last season.

And that should be a scary thought for the rest of the SEC — even Georgia, a team that will likely beat Tennessee. The Vols, however, are going to put some points on the board against the Bulldogs. They’re going to make Georgia’s defense work.

Tennessee is just getting started under Heupel. Last year was just the opening act. In 2022, we’ll really get to see what this offense can do.

Featured image via Jamar Coach/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK