When Josh Heupel was hired as the Tennessee Vols’ head coach in late January, he immediately made five-star quarterback Ty Simpson a top priority.

Simpson, who is from Martin, TN, is ranked in 247Sports’ composite rankings as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the nation and the No. 2 player in Tennessee. He’s a tremendous quarterback prospect who has the talent to excel in the SEC.

But unfortunately for Heupel and the Vols, Simpson committed to Alabama on Friday afternoon.

Heupel never really had a chance to land Simpson, as evidenced by comments made by the five-star quarterback on Friday after committing to Bama.

While missing on Simpson certainly hurts (Tennessee always wants to land elite in-state talent), it’s certainly not the end of the world for the Vols.

For starters, Tennessee already has quality quarterback talent on the roster, with Harrison Bailey, Kaidon Salter, Hendon Hooker, and Brian Maurer.

And then there’s four-star quarterback Sam Horn, who became the Vols’ top 2022 quarterback target after Simpson committed to Alabama.

Horn wasn’t heavily pursued by previous Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff, but that’s changing under Heupel and the new Vols staff.

Heupel has been communicating a lot with Horn since taking the Tennessee job last month, and I’d expect that communication to increase moving forward. Horn grew up cheering for the Vols and he admitted this week to Go Vols 247 that turning down Tennessee would be hard (Horn’s brother currently attends UT). The looming NCAA sanctions, however, means this won’t be a slam dunk for Heupel and Tennessee.

But if the Vols manage to land Horn, they’ll be getting a quarterback that is just as talented as Simpson.

Horn isn’t rated quite as high as Simpson, but it’s close (Simpson is the No. 3 pro-style quarterback, while Horn is the No. 6 pro-style quarterback).

There’s even an argument to be made that Horn is a better fit in Heupel’s offense. Horn plays in a pass-heavy system at Collins Hill, and he’s known as a gunslinger (247Sports recruiting analyst Andrew Ivins says Horn is “a true gunslinger equipped with a live arm that’s always looking to make a play”). This is the type of quarterback that thrives in a Josh Heupel offense.

Horn, like Simpson, has an extensive baseball background. That’s becoming an increasingly common trait in successful quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, etc). Playing baseball helps quarterbacks deliver the ball effectively from a variety of arm slots, which is particularly useful while making plays on the run.

(Horn has mentioned that he’d like to play baseball in college as well, so that could be a factor here.)

Horn also has a size advantage over Simpson (6-foot-4 vs 6-foot-2), though Simpson probably has the speed advantage (Horn is still capable of making plays on the move and escaping pressure).

Both of these quarterbacks would be great fits in Heupel’s offense, but I think Horn’s high school experience and gun-slinger mentality make him the better fit (ironically, that’s likely why Pruitt didn’t like Horn that much).

If Horn was from Tennessee, it’s possible he would’ve been the first call made by Heupel instead of Simpson.

And in retrospect, maybe he should’ve been.

Regardless, the Vols aren’t hurting at quarterback when it comes to the guys on the roster or on the recruiting trail.

Featured image via Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports