New Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel is trying to create a new culture on Rocky Top.
Heupel wants to make football fun for the players on Tennessee’s roster, which is something he did at UCF.
During Heupel’s time in Orlando, the former Oklahoma-quarterback-turned-head-coach was known for occasionally canceling practice to take the team bowling or another “fun” activity.
Heupel’s mission to make the atmosphere fun at Tennessee has already started. There was a huge dodgeball game that went down shortly after Heupel was hired. And this week we saw a clip on social media of the team working together on a problem-solving task.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) February 25, 2021
With all this focus on fun, it’s understandable if fans are wondering about the football aspect of things.
Keeping things fun is important, but becoming stronger and faster is what will ultimately win games in the SEC.
Fans shouldn’t worry — that stuff is still happening under Heupel just as much as it would under any other head coach.
The dodgeball game that we saw on social media? That was just a brief portion of the day sandwiched in between workouts and classes.
“We actually had workouts that morning,” explained Heupel during an appearance on the Jim Rome Show this week. “Guys worked extremely hard and went through agility stations, and there’s a buffer of time there where there’s some dead time before they have to go to class, and so we had a little dodgeball tournament.”
Heupel wants things to be fun, but he wants players to also understand that there’s no substitute for hard work.
“I think you have to have fun,” said Heupel to Rome. “You’re going to have to work really hard. You’ve got to put a ton of time and energy into this game, but there’s no reason that you can’t have fun walking into this building with the guys that you love to be around.”
The hope is that the hard work combined with the fun aspect will create a team that’s comfortable with each other on Saturdays and can execute at the highest level.
“When you get a chance to go play on game day, you’ve got to let your players go play,” noted Heupel. “You recruit great players, you develop them, and then you let them go out there and enjoy the competitive arena that they’re in and let them go try to win and play free.”
“It’s important that we do that. We’ve got a staff that believes that as well, energetic and engaging, great teachers. We’re going to go recruit great players and let them go play on game day, man.”
It might look like it’s all fun and games for the Vols on social media — and there’s plenty of that going on — but there’s also a lot of hard work being put in that we’re not seeing.
This isn’t Heupel’s first rodeo. He has the experience of learning under Bob Stoops. And he’s been a head coach for three years. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Tennessee’s program is in better hands now than it was at any point during the Jeremy Pruitt era.
Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports