Maybe Tennessee football should just play without a defensive coordinator this year. Hey, when Danny White hired Josh Heupel, he specifically cited the entertainment Heupel’s offenses bring. That’s a departure from what Phillip Fulmer said when he hired Jeremy Pruitt three years earlier, citing the intensity that comes with coaching defense and is required in the SEC.
Clearly, with the Heupel hire, the Vols are not going for toughness or dominating the line of scrimmage. It’s all about points, and regardless of his success, nobody can deny he’ll at least do that on Rocky Top. His track record proves it.
In three years with the UCF Knights, Heupel’s teams never failed to average over 42 points. Before that, he was the Missouri Tigers’ offensive coordinator for two years. Coaching in the SEC didn’t stop his teams from averaging 31.4 points and 37.5 points respectively in 2016 and 2017.
Given what Tennessee football is going for, who cares if they don’t have a defensive coordinator? That was the talk of the day related to the program, as the Vols still are having trouble bringing one back to UT.
Louisville Cardinals defensive coordinator Bryan Brown, Ohio State Buckeyes linebackers coach Al Washington and LSU Tigers linebackers coach Blake Baker have all been named. However, Bruce Feldman tweeted out that Brown turned down Rocky Top last week, and Jimmy Hyams tweeted Wednesday that Baker turned them down too.
At this point, it’s clear that Rocky Top is a place where nobody coaching defense wants to be. We wrote last week about the toxicity of the program right now in general, and it’s clear that the focus on offense under Heupel is going to even further deter elite defensive coaches from joining the program anytime in the near future.
If Heupel continues to struggle to find a defensive coordinator, there’s no reason for him not to just keep Kevin Steele. It’s not like Steele isn’t experienced coaching in defenses with up-tempo offenses. He did it under Dabo Swinney with the Clemson Tigers. Sure, he allowed 70 points in a game, but again, who cares? Tennessee football is all about offense baby!
The point of this article is to say, don’t panic. Everybody knew the trouble the Vols were in after firing Jeremy Pruitt. Things were going to be rough this upcoming season no matter what, and struggling to find a defensive coordinator isn’t going to change that. It also won’t change anything about why Heupel was hired.
Look, UT has no chance to out-talent anybody next year on its SEC schedule outside of maybe the Vanderbilt Commodores. However, it will have plenty of chances to out-flash its opponents, and a few extra points may help a bit with recruiting. Also, if the program is going on probation, it’ll at least be a fun ride with no postseason next year.
Maybe no defense is a good thing. Heupel will be able to turn every game into a shootout, which all signs point to him doing anyway. Simply put, Tennessee football fans have something to look forward to next year no matter what. Worrying about a defensive coach is overrated.
— to allfortennessee.com