Heupel is at the Helm on the Hill.
The most important position in football is the quarterback. Nobody will challenge this or refute this. You can make a case for the offensive line or the defensive line, but good quarterback play can help neutralize a good defensive line and improve the optics of a mediocre offensive line. With the hire that Tennessee has made, it has prioritized the offense and the play of the quarterback with those components being the strength’s of Heupel’s resume.
The benefit of having a high scoring offense, in theory, is the reduced pressure on the defense. The defense won’t need to hold teams to under 25 points to have a chance at winning. The football landscape is shifting quickly. Just a few years ago, when Jeremy Pruitt was hired after helping Alabama to another National Championship, most felt that an elite defense was necessary to compete in the SEC. That narrative has changed as football is evolving into an offensive game more and more with each passing season.
With that being said, Tim Banks has been announced as the newest Defensive Coordinator at the University of Tennessee.
Banks has been coaching in the college ranks for 25 years. Most recently serving as the co-defensive coordinator at Penn State, Banks has garnered a reputation for putting safeties in the league. This doesn’t appear to be the sure-fire home run hire that fans were hoping for, but that’s not to say it won’t end up being a great hire in the end.
The thing that fans need to consider is this: Jeremy Pruitt went out and hired the guy that was near the top of everyone’s list with each hire. Jokes were made that Butch talked about having the best staff in America, but that Jeremy Pruitt was actually going out and doing it. Look where that got us. 3-7. While I think each of us would love to see a more proven commodity, a good track record isn’t everything.
This staff is underrated. Josh has worked with many of the guys he hired for his staff at Tennessee. The continuity will help leadership share one voice. One voice and a mutual understanding of the positional and system demands within Heupel’s system should expedite the process of getting the offense back on track. Kodi Burns recruited well to Auburn. Glen Elarbee has coached alongside Heupel at Missouri and UCF. Alex Golesh worked under Matt Campbell and helped Iowa State bring in their best recruiting classes, capitalizing on the positive momentum of the program. Rodney Garner wasn’t a bad pickup for this program either, particularly from a recruiting standpoint in the SEC.
One common concern among the fans is recruiting. I would argue that Tennessee recruits itself to a certain degree. Regardless of who has been at the helm, we have been in the top 12 to 15 classes in the country for the most part for the past decade. That talent paired with a coach who is capable of developing players could easily translate to 9 win seasons. Fans, for the time being, need to have their sights set on 8 and 9 win seasons, rather than SEC prominence. With some stability and consistency, Tennessee can get back there, but this program is closer to Kentucky over the past ten years than it is to Alabama or Georgia or Florida. The tradition, facilities, and financial support are all there, but the product on the field has been gone for some time. Give. It. Time
Before you head out the door: I want it to be known. I’ve got beef with a chunk of the fan base. The volume of voiced frustration from the fanbase is incessant and too loud for the first month of the new regime’s time here. Some people are ready to see Danny White gone. The couches are being hauled out of the house ready to set ablaze by more than a few of you. If you’re already criticizing Heupel and White one month into their tenure, before any games have been played, you’re part of the problem. We don’t know what the program might be facing in terms of discipline handed down from the NCAA. With the program’s future shrouded in uncertainty and with the talent dissipating from the roster, it’s as tough of a sell to coach at the University as it ever has been. Frankly, a fiery couch may be emblematic of where this program is at right now. We can get back, but don’t expect the ride to be smooth, like anything else in the life of a Tennessee fan, it’s gonna be bumpy. Go Vols.