When the Tennessee Vols hired Josh Heupel last month to be the program’s new head coach, he immediately reached out to 2022 four-star quarterback Ty Simpson — one of UT’s top recruiting targets.

Reaching out to Simpson, who is scheduled to announce his commitment on February 26, was a no-brainer.

Heupel is an offensive-minded coach who is known for developing quarterbacks. Simpson was obviously someone who was on his radar as soon as he took the job at Tennessee.

It’s tough to win games in college football without an elite quarterback. Simpson, who is an in-state prospect, is someone who could potentially take the Vols’ offense to the next level.

Being successful, however, requires more than just a great quarterback.

And Heupel understands that.

Finding talent on both sides of the ball for the Vols

Heupel doesn’t spend much time on the defensive side of the ball. But he’s still the CEO of Tennessee’s football program, which means he’s still responsible for what happens defensively.

That’s why it’s nice to see that Heupel didn’t just reach out to Simpson when he was hired. He also reached out to other key in-state recruits, including three-star cornerback Myles Pollard.

Pollard, 6-foot-2/185 lbs from Brentwood, TN, is rated as the No. 16 player in Tennessee (247Sports composite). He doesn’t jump out immediately as one of the “elite” in-state players, but he’s still a kid that Heupel identified early as a player that UT needs.

“We talk almost every day now and are on the phone about three times a week,” said Pollard in an interview this week with VolQuest. “He’s a cool guy and I like him a lot. When he hadn’t hired a defensive coordinator yet, he assured me that I’d like the hire.”

Heupel ended up hiring Tim Banks to serve as the Vols’ defensive coordinator, but that doesn’t mean the recently-hired UT head coach is taking a backseat in Pollard’s recruitment.

Keeping talented players in-state will be key for Tennessee to have future success. Heupel understands that. And he’s making sure that message is being delivered to in-state recruits.

“He (Heupel) really wants to put a stamp on in-state guys and that’s one of the reasons he’s pushing for me,” noted Pollard.

Heupel will ultimately be judged as a recruiter by the players he signs. But after a month on the job, I think it’s clear that Heupel is putting in the work to be a great recruiter. He’s focusing on keeping talented players in-state. And he’s not just focused on the offensive side of the ball.

The Heupel era at Tennessee is just getting underway, but so far it’s off to an encouraging start.

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports/247Sports

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