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Tennessee players explain change in culture under Josh Heupel

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Tennessee is a week into fall camp, and the differences between coaching staffs are already showing in a big way. Obviously the Volunteers will be running a different scheme under Josh Heupel this fall, but there’s also simply a different feel to the program.

Heupel has granted much more media access, trying to be as open and available to the fanbase as possible. Just in the last week alone we’ve heard from Heupel himself twice, along with several members of his staff. We’ve also heard from a number of players — something that Jeremy Pruitt’s staff wasn’t big on. It may not seem like a big deal, but little stuff like this goes a long way in keeping your fanbase connected to the team. It also lets future recruits get a better idea of what you’re selling.

As for the players that have seen both staffs in action, it seems like this was a very welcomed change.

“We love him, man,” offensive tackle Dayne Davis said after practice today of Heupel. “It’s a complete culture change in the locker room. Everybody’s wanting to go to practice now. Before it was kind of, ‘Uhh, kind of dreading today.’ But practice is fun, now, everything is fun. We’re all ready to be here in the mornings.

“It just wasn’t fun being around here under the last staff,” Davis continued. “Really just was an agonizing kind of feeling, but it’s very much changed now.”

In all fairness to the last staff, they did have to deal with the ‘COVID year.’ Protocols were strict, and there likely weren’t many opportunities to have fun as a team. Still, multiple players have now come forward, praising the approach of the new staff.

“It’s a totally different atmosphere in this building,” Tyler Baron said last week. “I tell everybody — coming in from our season last year to this year, you almost can’t even call it the same program. It’s a totally different mindset. People are taking more advantage of everything. It’s going to be really positive.”

Obviously, the culture will be put to the test once adversity strikes. However, in more ways than one, this staff seems to be the complete opposite of the last. We’ll see how it translates to the field in a few more weeks.