When Tennessee Vols athletic director Danny White hired Josh Heupel as the program’s head coach in January, he essentially hired the polar opposite of Jeremy Pruitt, UT’s previous head coach.

Pruitt brought a Nick Saban-like approach to Tennessee….and it didn’t work.

Sophomore linebacker Bryson Eason described the atmosphere under Pruitt as militaristic earlier this year.

“With the previous staff, it was more of a military-style of practices, it was very strict,” said Eason in late April.

Things aren’t nearly as tense under Heupel. The vibe is more family-oriented. And it’s making a big impression on recruits.

“He’s (Heupel) very energetic and is always smiling,” said 2022 three-star running back Jordan McDonald to VolQuest this week. “There’s a really nice vibe in the air for everyone when he is around. He lights the whole place up when he comes into the room.”

“It’s not one of those relationships where everyone gets tense when he walks in or is timid or is afraid to speak,” added McDonald.

This type of vibe is exactly what Tennessee needed after the Pruitt era. There’s a reason the Vols experienced an inordinate amount of coaching turnover under Pruitt — he was extremely hard to work for. That’s not an environment where players and assistant coaches are likely to thrive.

Heupel, however, goes about his job in a different way. And it’s absolutely having a positive impact on the program.

Now, whether or not that translates to wins remains to be seen. But after Pruitt’s methods failed, it’s certainly a wise idea for the Volunteers to take a different approach.

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