clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Opposing coaches speak anonymously on Tennessee football

Always interesting stuff.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Capital One Orange Bowl Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You know you’ve reached peak offseason when the Athlon preview magazine hits store shelves in early June. The publication was a mainstay for me personally as a kid, always accompanying me on some sort of summer trip and giving me some entertainment in the car.

The best part of the edition every year is the anonymous quotes on every team from opposing coaches. Athlon gives complete anonymity to coaches, giving them the green light to tee off on their rivals around the league. For many years under Derek Dooley and Butch Jones, Tennessee was an easy target of these quotes. Now? Not so much — especially coming off of an 11-2 season and an Orange Bowl win.

“They were legit good last year,” one coach told the magazine. “That wasn’t a fluke or a gimmick. That offense is no more or less a gimmick system than anyone else’s. I think a lot of coaches are just sore how they got scored on so much.”

Tennessee finished the year ranked No. 1 in total offense for the 2022 season.

The Volunteers will look to duplicate those results this year, but a new face will be under center for Josh Heupel. Joe Milton is set for his final chance in college football, entering year three in Heupel’s system.

Milton’s performance will go a long way towards Tennessee’s win total.

“Milton is not going to be Hooker, so the ceiling won’t be as high,” a coach told Athlon. “They need to develop more depth at wide receiver to stay creative. This system is like a new-age option offense where it’s just hard as hell to practice it in a single week and you get burned easily because you’re tired. You can’t replicate the tempo and pace unless you do a little bit all season.”

One place Tennessee is expected to improve is on the defensive side of the ball. The Volunteers were up and down for most of the year, but they ended on a high note holding Clemson to just 14 points in the Orange Bowl.

“The defense still has leftover talent from Jeremy Pruitt,” a coach said. “They’re just asked to play complimentary ball and create a few stops.”

The Pruitt leftovers are drying up quickly, but Tim Banks and his defensive staff have done a great job adding blue-chip talent to every level. Tennessee has slowly built depth on the defensive side, and that finally should pay dividends this fall.

The final quote came about the game atmosphere itself.

“When they’re up on you, Neyland is a nightmare to play in,” a coach said. “The stadium is back to the way it used to be.”

Tennessee fans warned others for year, “don’t let us get good!” Well, in 2022, you saw why. The Volunteers went undefeated in Neyland Stadium, beating Florida and Alabama in two of the wilder atmospheres in recent memory. They also completely destroyed a decent Kentucky team, and hung 66 on Missouri. The University of Tennessee has already announced a sell-out of season tickets ahead of the 2023 season, for reference.

Josh Heupel and company will face a reloading challenge in 2023, but we’ve seen his scheme win out so far in Knoxville. At least from one coach’s perspective, that scheme is legit and should keep Tennessee going for at least the next few years.

You can check out Athlon’s latest magazine wherever magazines are sold near you, or you can purchase online.