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Heupel on the Tennessee offense: ‘I love where we’re at’

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Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Spring football is winding down in Knoxville, and it’s nearly time to see what the Volunteers have on the field during the Orange and White Game. The Tennessee offense has undergone a major overhaul this spring, with offensive-minded Josh Heupel taking over for Jeremy Pruitt.

Tennessee will move to a spread and utilize the no-huddle to keep defenses on their heels. It’s a massive change from a more traditional look under Jim Chaney — one that’s going to take more time than just a month of spring practice.

So how’s the offense looking at this point? Are they operating a warp speed just a week ahead of the Orange and White Game?

“No,” Josh Heupel said on Saturday. “But we shouldn’t be at this point either. We are going to continue to get more and more efficient in how we operate and how we function. I think a lot of our mechanics, for being this early in the process, I love where we’re at. In the guys’ understanding and being able to operate in it, you’re constantly going to teach off teachable moments. Practice is awesome.”

Heupel made a name for himself at Missouri, calling the shots for one of the best offenses in the country with Drew Lock under center. He turned that into an opportunity at UCF, where he was able to audition for a big-time job in the AAC. His pedal-to-the-metal style is going to bring Tennessee into the modern era of offense-first football, but a transition period is likely.

Tennessee went through a closed scrimmage on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, sort of a dry run ahead of next weekend. With such a dramatic change of pace and style, Heupel says it’s important to run through these game-like scrimmages. He also sounded pleased overall with how it went.

“These scrimmages are critical because it is truly a game,” Heupel said. “I thought today, really, there were very few things that were noticeable during the course of play, before we go back and watch it, that I had an issue with. I think that speaks to those kids’ buy-in and their ability to be coached and learn not just be corrected themselves but learn from a teammate as well.”

Everything from reps to getting the play-call in to substitutions — the spring install is nearly complete, and then fine-tuning can happen in the fall.

“The first two scrimmages, we have tried to treat like a game in everything we are doing, for our players to make sure they are prepared and understand how to go play a football game,” Heupel said. “The communication system, we have tried to do the same thing. You are going to continue to get better, more efficient, more in sync every opportunity you get.”

The Orange and White Game is set to kickoff next Saturday afternoon from Neyland Stadium at 4 p.m. ET.