Every time the Tennessee Vols hire a new head coach, there are countless stories about the new coach “changing the culture”.

I’ve written far too many of those stories over the years.

In the case of new Vols head Josh Heupel, however, it might be legitimate.

Tennessee was in desperate need of a culture change after the lifeless Jeremy Pruitt era.

And that was evident in comments made by Vols sophomore linebacker Tyler Baron this week.

Baron, a former four-star recruit from Nashville, spoke to reporters this week about the current state of the UT program under Heupel.

“It’s a totally different atmosphere,” said Baron while discussing the program. “I tell everybody coming in from our season last year to this year, you almost can’t even call it the same program. It’s a totally different mindset. People are taking more advantage of everything and it’s going to be really positive.”

“The biggest thing for me is the mindset of the team and the mindset in the building,” added Baron. “Everybody is looking for how they can improve more so than just getting through. Everybody is determined. All the new guys are buying into the program. Coach Heupel is leading us in the right direction and we’re just happy to follow him.”

The part of that quote from Baron that stands out the most is “everybody is looking for how they can improve more so than just getting through”.

Baron makes it sounds like players were just trying to make it through the day under Pruitt. If that’s the case, then the atmosphere around the program must’ve been absolutely miserable.

That’s not a recipe for success at all. Miserable athletes don’t win games. I’m not saying it has to be all fun and games, but if players aren’t looking forward to being coached and/or practicing, then a losing season is inevitable.

Heupel’s culture-change isn’t just lip-service. It’s a legitimate change that should help Tennessee become a better team in 2021 and beyond.

Featured image via Brianna Paciorka/Pool via News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services/Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content Services, LLC