How Josh Heupel has made Tennessee football a problem for the rest of SEC | Adams

Other SEC football coaches probably would just as soon not hear from coach Josh Heupel on Thursday at SEC Media Days in Nashville. His presence will remind them what a problem Tennessee has become in his two seasons as coach.
Until Heupel arrived, Tennessee was an afterthought.
Teams didn’t circle it on their schedule. Coaches looked forward to matching wits with the likes of Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt. And the best teams often saw Saturdays with UT as less challenging than Fan Day.
Alabama was on a 15-game winning streak against UT when Heupel arrived in 2021. That means it never lost to Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, Jones or Pruitt.
Florida was on a 16-1 run before Heupel. Its only loss was in 2016 to Jones’ best team.
Georgia didn’t fare as well. It had won nine of the previous 11 games in the series when Heupel was hired to replace Pruitt.
South Carolina had a 6-5 advantage on Tennessee despite losing to Pruitt’s last two teams.
Even Kentucky, a longtime UT punching bag, managed to win once each against Pruitt, Jones and Dooley.
Missouri won its only game against Dooley, beat Jones three out of five and scored 50 points in consecutive games against the Vols in 2017-18.
Vanderbilt also took advantage of UT’s bad hires. The Commodores won three of five against Jones, scored 41 points in a victory over Dooley’s last team and beat Pruitt’s first team by 25 points.
Bottom line: All the regulars on Tennessee’s schedule had reason to be optimistic about playing the Vols.
Only Georgia can say that now. It has beaten both of Heupel’s teams.
South Carolina is the only other SEC East team to beat Heupel and it did so emphatically, 63-38 last November.
But Heupel ended UT’s losing streaks to Alabama and Florida last season while scoring 90 points combined in the process. His offense has overwhelmed the rest of the East. Missouri has given up 128 points in two games; Vanderbilt, 101; Kentucky, 89.
All those points are what makes Heupel’s teams so troublesome. Last season, the Vols led the nation in points and yards per game. In Heupel’s first season, a depleted roster didn't prevent Tennessee from averaging almost 40 points per game.
Heupel’s up-tempo, spread offense has become downright frightening to defensive coordinators. If you don’t have the best defense in the country – as Georgia did the past two seasons – you’re in danger of giving up 40 points to the Vols. SEC West champion LSU realized that last season in Tiger Stadium when it lost to UT 40-13.
In the 1990s, when Tennessee football was flying high, opponents were concerned about its overall talent. But now, they need to worry about a coach and his offensive system, which can make even talented athletes look silly – as Alabama’s 2022 secondary can attest.
Heupel puts pressure on offensive coordinators as well as defensive coordinators. They have to ask themselves: “How many points is enough?”
Alabama scored 49 points last season. That wasn’t enough.
ADAMS: Four SEC teams that should wish Tennessee wasn't on 2024 football schedule
So what if the Vols lost their best offensive lineman (first-round draft pick Darnell Wright), their best receiver (All-American Jalin Hyatt, whom Alabama coach Nick Saban must see in his nightmares), and star quarterback Hendon Hooker from last season's 11-2 team.
The offensive system is still intact, and Heupel is still on the sideline. That means Tennessee is still a problem.

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