ESPN has been taking a look down the road this offseason, rankings several units and position groups in a three-year scope. Last week they took on the offenses, so of course Tennessee made the cut.
It’s hard to believe now, but the Volunteers were quite literally at the bottom of the barrell during the 2020 season. Points and yards were always a struggle, as Jim Chaney’s offensive scheme wasn’t exactly featuring groundbreaking stuff. Jeremy Pruitt was fired, and incoming athletics director Danny White knew what he needed to do.
White aimed to replicate his success at UCF, opting to simply bring his football coach with him to Knoxville. White quipped that the players told him they wanted to win fast, and somehow he accomplished that goal. Seven wins in 2021 followed by an 11-2 year in 2022 wasn’t something anyone saw coming.
Now, Tennessee appears to be set to lead the offensive charge in college football. Heupel’s spread-based tempo attack transformed the program from day one, and now the recruits are starting to pile in.
According to ESPN, Tennessee will be a top ten offense over the next three seasons.
Coach Josh Heupel has brought an offensive philosophy to Tennessee that has accelerated the program’s return to relevance. Since Heupel’s arrival in 2021, Tennessee ranks second nationally in scoring (42.7 points per game) and fifth in average yards per play (6.86).
The infusion of talent at the quarterback position, even after losing Hendon Hooker, is a big reason why. The pipeline appears to be ready to produce over the next five years.
The combination of Milton and incoming freshman Nico Iamaleava, ESPN’s No. 4 pocket passer and No. 23 overall player in the 2023 class, should stabilize the quarterback spot through the 2025 season. Tennessee also has a 2024 commitment from Jake Merklinger, ESPN’s No. 101 prospect in the class.
The Volunteers ranked first overall in total offense, putting up 525 yards per game. They averaged a staggering 7.23 yards per play, scoring 78 touchdowns on the year. Now without Hooker running the show, it’s going to be interesting to see if they can keep up that pace with Joe Milton under center.
But looking down the road, Nico Iamaleava is already set up nicely for big 2024 and 2025 seasons.