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Josh Heupel pleased with summer progress in first fall practice

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

According to first year head coach Josh Heupel, the Tennessee Volunteers got off on the right foot to kick off fall camp on Wednesday. Tennessee is coming out of a traditional, pro-style offense and moving into a hyper-speed spread system. Naturally, you’d be worried about how quickly the team could make a change like that.

Heupel did have a month back in the spring to install his offense, but a summer without on-field action, along with a few new additions out of the transfer portal would have any coach concerned about his team’s retention rate.

“I really feel like for pretty much everybody on the offensive unit, we’re way ahead of where we finished offensively,” Heupel told the media on Wednesday. “I mentioned that on the defensive side of the ball too. We’ve continued to become smarter, have more understanding of what we’re trying to do and how to operate throughout the summer that way.”

Heupel manufactured the second ranked offense in the country last season at UCF, averaging well over 530 yards per game. That’s a far cry from what we’ve seen at Tennessee over the last four seasons, as the Volunteers have been stuck in the mud thanks to poor quarterback play and frankly, pretty vanilla offenses.

Tennessee got out of their comfort zone this offseason, hiring athletic director Danny White, who brought his head football coach with him from Orlando. The traditional 90s offense is now gone, and Tennessee has officially entered the new age of college football.

It’s now up to Heupel to make that transition a quick and efficient one.

“I think the thing that stuck out to me today more than anything, one, really positive energy,” Heupel said. “Flying around the entire practice. None of them were completely exhausted as we were walking off the field today. I think they’re in really good shape. I think they’ve gained strength. They all feel good in their athletic movement, the progress that they’ve made since Coach Schmidt got here in the strength and conditioning area. I think the one thing outside of that that I took way was just their ability to communicate with each other. Get positive feedback or talk about not using the right technique. I was really excited about that.”

Tennessee ranked 102nd in total offense last year under Jeremy Pruitt and Jim Chaney. Not only will the offense change, but the overall tone of even the press conferences have changed. Clearly Heupel is a more positive guy in general, but he’s also given us more access to this point. He made several players available to the media on Wednesday and plans to regularly have his coordinators speak in press conference settings. It’s difficult as outsiders to really see culture changes, but this staff already has a drastic change in tone and vibe overall.

At least according to the staff to open camp, that change is working. We won’t truly know or see it until Tennessee hits the field next month, but it’s exciting to have the prospects of a fun offense in Knoxville once again.