It’s that time of year — the time when the college football content dries up, but we still have to talk and argue about something. This week, CBS filled that void for us with their annual head coach rankings. The list, voted on by a handful of analysts, ranks every power five coach 1-69.
No surprise here, but Josh Heupel made a major jump after a 10-2 season on Rocky Top in 2022. The wild transformation in just two short years has been nothing short of remarkable, as Heupel has successfully installed his fast-paced, spread attack. Wins over Florida, Alabama and at LSU had the Volunteers in the thick of the title race for the first time in 20 years.
In the rankings, Heupel shot from 33rd to 16th.
Josh Heupel: It felt like 1998 in Knoxville last year as Tennessee’s football program finally seemed to wake up from a long slumber. The Volunteers reached No. 2 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2001 and beat Alabama for the first time since 2006. Heupel’s 18 wins in his first two seasons are more than Jeremy Pruitt had in his three at the helm (16). Thank the football gods for NCAA violations! 2022 rank: 33 (+17)
Heupel checks in just behind Dave Clawson and Lane Kiffin. He slots in fifth among SEC head coaches. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart took the top two spots, while Brian Kelly landed sixth.
Virtually nobody saw Heupel’s success coming this early in Knoxville. It’s so easy to forget what he started with at Tennessee — a gutted roster stemming from Jeremy Pruitt’s recruiting violations. What he was able to do in two years was truly stunning.
Heupel will once again be put to the test this year, moving on from Hendon Hooker. The Orange Bowl result with Joe Milton looks great, but it’s always been about consistency with Joe. How he manages this situation will determine whether or not Tennessee can make another run in 2023.
But finally, without question, Tennessee is in good hands with one of the best offensive minds in the country.