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CBS Sports ranks Josh Heupel as the 52nd best head coach in Power Five

A fair ranking for the first year Tennessee coach.

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

CBS Sports is back this week with their annual head coaching rankings ahead of the 2021 college football season. Tennessee — once again — has a fresh face on the list. Josh Heupel takes over for Jeremy Pruitt, who was fired following an investigation into his staff’s recruiting.

Heupel brings his high octane offense to Knoxville, looking to wake up the sleeping giant that is Tennessee football. The Volunteers have produced some really bad offenses over the last four years, so this change of pace is certainly welcomed on Rocky Top. The question is, can Heupel win enough on the recruiting trail to hang with Florida, Georgia and Alabama? That’s something that will be answered over the next few seasons.

Heupel has an immediate uphill climb at Tennessee, and that could be made even more difficult by potential NCAA sanctions stemming from the Pruitt era. Still, he has three years of head coaching experience, along with a couple of years of experience as a coordinator in the SEC. Danny White is hoping that’s enough to take on this massive rebuild.

CBS Sports is taking a wait-and-see approach, which is totally fair. They reference his declining record at UCF as a reason why, along with the challenging situation in Knoxville.

52. Josh Heupel: Unlike the other first-year Power Five coaches we’ve discussed, Heupel comes to Knoxville with head-coaching experience. He went 28-8 at UCF with a conference title, and that’s boosted his stock a bit with our voters. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Heupel’s first season at UCF was his best, and the record worsened with each passing season. Heupel is also inheriting a very different situation at Tennessee than the one he found at UCF.

Heupel checks in ahead of first-time head coaches Shane Beamer (65) and Clark Lea (63). He’s the 12th ranked coach in the SEC, narrowly slotting in behind Sam Pittman (50) and Eli Drinkwitz (43). Auburn’s Bryan Harsin, who comes over from Boise State, was ranked 27th overall, coming in ahead of Lane Kiffin (30) and Mike Leach (33).

Click here for spots 1-25.