The Tennessee Vols ended a relatively quick and quiet coaching search on Wednesday when it was announced that former UCF head coach Josh Heupel would be taking over in Knoxville.
Names such as Gus Malzahn, Lane Kiffin, and Jamey Chadwell were thrown around by fans and media to replace Jeremy Pruitt, but the Vols opted to go with the offensive-minded Heupel. Heupel’s connection with recently-hired athletic director Danny White clearly played a role in him getting the job.
Heupel has a pretty solid resume as he gets set to rebuild the Tennessee football program. Tennessee’s new head coach led the Oklahoma Sooners to a BCS National Championship, finished second in the 2000 Heisman Trophy voting, and was in charge of explosive passing attacks at both Missouri and Central Florida.
The UCF offense was among the best in all of college football under Heupel’s coaching. Heupel’s Golden Knights offense ranked in the top-5 nationally in total offense (568.1 yards per game) and passing offense (357.4 yards per game) and top-10 nationally in points per game (42.2 points per game) in 2020.
UCF’s offense literally ranked 100 spots ahead of Tennessee’s offense in 2020 in two huge categories
Points per game: 8th and 108th
Total offense: 2nd and 102nd.
— Austin Stanley (@AustinStanley81) January 27, 2021
Heupel’s offense averaged at least 42.2 points per game in all of three of his seasons at the helm in Orlando. To put it simply: Josh Heupel’s offense loves to throw the football and consistently lights up the scoreboard. More evidence of that could be found during his time as offensive coordinator at Missouri, where Drew Lock threw for a then-SEC record 43 touchdowns.
An argument could be made that Heupel found success with Scott Frost’s recruits at UFC; nonetheless, the offensive success should excite the quarterbacks and wide receivers on the Vols roster.
Evaluating how 4-star QB Kaidon Salter fits into the Tennessee Vols offense.
Tennessee inked Cedar Hill, Texas, four-star quarterback Kaidon Salter back in December during the Early Signing Period. Salter then reaffirmed his commitment to the Vols shortly after Jeremy Pruitt was fired. That was a huge win for the Tennessee program.
Salter is a consensus four-star recruit in the 2021 recruiting class, ranking as a top-50 overall prospect on 247Sports. He finished as the third-best dual-threat quarterback in his class and a top-5 player in the state of Texas.
At Cedar Hill, Salter put together back-to-back prolific seasons in big-time Texas football. The 6-foot-1, 181-pound signal-caller threw for 4,298 yards and 46 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions over his junior and senior seasons. He also accounted for 1,075 yards and five touchdowns on the ground during his final season at the preps level.
Hell of a throw by Tennessee signee Kaidon Salter at the end of regulation on Saturday. 65 yards with ease. Another impressive playoff performance in the OT win pic.twitter.com/VcdIKaZJhT
— Charles Power (@CharlesPower) January 4, 2021
Salter led Cedar Hill to two consecutive playoff appearances in the Lone Star State. As a junior, Cedar Hill was bounced by Denton Guyer in the second round of the 6A Division II State Playoffs — a game in which Salter led the Longhorns offense to 41 points.
Salter led his Cedar Hill Longhorns to the 6A Division II State Title game before losing to Texas powerhouse Katy in his senior season. Cedar Hill averaged more than 34 points per game during their run to the championship game.
To put it mildly: Salter played against some of the elite competition in Texas and dominated.
— dfw varsity (@dfwvarsity) October 17, 2020
Several things immediately jump out that should excite Vols fans when diving into Kaidon Salter’s tape. He’s an athletic gunslinger that believes he can make every throw on the football field. He has the confidence and raw talent that coaches dream of.
Salter possesses impressive arm strength — he’s able to push the ball down the field on a line. He shows the ability to throw on the run and from different arm angles and platforms. Salter is very accurate with a nice touch and impressive ball placement. The 2021 four-star does a great job of leading his receivers which creates yards-after-catch opportunities.
He has good footwork and moves extremely well in and out of the pocket. His track-and-field background shows up on the football field, backed up by a 4.85 40-yard-dash that is on record.
— Dave Campbell's Texas Football — TexasFootball.com (@dctf) January 16, 2021
On the flip side, there are instances where Salter tries to do much and gets himself in trouble. He sometimes relies on his escape ability a little too much, resulting in sacks or missed opportunities.
He prefers to throw the deep ball — which is a nice element to have, but it raises questions on how he will consistently perform when the defense takes those shots away. Katy did a great job of limiting explosive plays in the 6A Division II State Title game against Cedar Hill, and Salter struggled — throwing for just 112 yards and accounting for multiple turnovers.
Salter is a raw quarterback that has a ton of intriguing tools to work with. Heupel’s success with signal-callers in the past is good news for the Vols, as he should be able to help refine Salter’s game in Knoxville.
Overall, the Tennessee Vols are getting a very solid quarterback that produced big numbers against top competition in the Lone Star State. He has the accuracy, the arm strength, and the athletic ability to be an ideal fit in Josh Heupel’s high-powered spread scheme in the SEC.
Featured image via Askyouphotos