Will Josh Heupel win a bunch of games and turn Tennessee around? We don’t know. What do we know? He’s probably going to score a bunch of points and rack up plenty of yardage once his offense finds its footing.
Understandably so, Tennessee’s offensive skill position players are excited for the makeover. Josh Heupel’s offenses routinely landed inside of the top five nationally during his time at UCF. The path to putting up those numbers is certainly tougher now in Knoxville, playing in the SEC. The philosophy change is clear, and it’s night and day from the previous staff.
“This is an offense that is a receiver’s dream,” senior receiver Velus Jones Jr. said Friday. “It’s definitely a dream of mine and also my fellow receiving corps, it’s just a dream come true. They love to throw the ball a lot, and as a receiver, that’s something you want.”
Heupel brings the spread-iso offense to Tennessee, a variant of the old Art Briles Baylor system that was so successful in the early 2010s. It’s an offense that stresses defenses by playing a numbers game. They’ll spread you out, find the numbers advantage and pounce. All of this will be done at warp speed, too. It’s a massive departure from the I-formation looks that Jim Chaney and Jeremy Pruitt were running in 2019 and 2020.
For Jones, he ended up coming on strong to close the year after transferring in from USC. He ended up catching 22 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns during the 2020 season. Now one of the only true veterans on the team, Jones has a chance to really make his mark in his sixth season of eligibility.
“After the season ended, I was like, I left way too much food on the table,” Jones said. “I was like me coming back and showing the nation what I can do, not proving nothing, but prove it to myself, the receiver I know I can be. I could put myself in a pretty good position to be playing football for a long time, so that’s the mission now.”