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Heupel, coaches spend spring speeding up Tennessee Vols

The new operating speed for the Tennessee Volunteers is fast. Not as speedy as new coach Josh Heupel wants once the season starts, but pretty quick for April. Offensive linemen like Heupel‘s new offense because they’re snapping the ball and lining up again fast enough to see defensive linemen wearing down during drives. “In the past, SEC teams would rotate a whole new D-line, so you’re six plays into a drive, and they’re bringing three fresh guys,” offensive lineman Cade Mays said. “In this offense, we don’t allow the defense to sub and bring in that new package, so you see them wearing down.”

Wide receivers are lining up wider and loving the chances to make more catches down the field. This is the third offense for senior Cedric Tillman, and he said the schemes of Tyson Helton and Jim Chaney were similar. “This offense is different,” Tillman said. “I’m excited about it. I’m adjusting well. We’re still trying to get the details of my teammates and me… I think it will be electric this year, and we’re all looking forward to it.”

Tennessee wraps up spring practice Saturday with the Orange & White game and has plenty of room for improvement from last season. The Vols ranked 102nd nationally, averaging 346.2 yards a game, and 108th in the country, scoring only 21.5 points while going 3-7 last season. Heupel was hired on Jan. 27 to replace Jeremy Pruitt after nine others were fired on Jan. 18, went 28-8 at UCF, and his up-tempo, high-powered offense was a big reason. His crime spreads out, plays fast, and attacks defenses. UCF ranked second nationally in 2020, averaging 568.1 yards of total offense, and eighth averaging 42.2 points a game.


“In what we do, it is going to be fast; it’s going to be fun,” Heupel said.

Heupel and his coaching staff started introducing this new scheme once he was hired. They’ve had 15 practices, including three scrimmages capped by the spring game, to help the Volunteers understand the pace they want. “We are happy with where we are,” offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said Thursday. “As a coach, you always want to be ahead of where you probably are. But we are happy with where we are, and I think we will continue to make strides as we get into summer and fall camp.” The Vols will also have time this summer and fall practice to turn their learning into muscle memory, allowing them to play even faster. “It’s just tempo and having a, just a high-powered offense at every level of the game,” offensive lineman Cooper Mays said. “It’s so intense and fast it’s hard to describe, but you guys will see it on game day.” That also forces the Vols’ defense to play faster. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner says his linemen are learning to stay poised, play confidently and communicate with each other.

“This is going to help us going forward because, in this league, there are several teams that are doing pace in the hurry-up, no-huddle,” Garner said. “It is going to get us acclimated for the fall.”

Who will run this offense may not be decided until the opener on Sept. 4 against Bowling Green.

Hendon Hooker, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, has the most quarterback experience on the roster. He started 15 25 games in four seasons at Virginia Tech, throwing 2,894 yards and 22 touchdowns while running for 1,033 yards and 15 more TDs.

Hooker has rotated with Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer.

Kaidon Salter, the sixth-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation by 247sports composite rankings, is suspended along with linebackers Martavius French and Aaron Willis and defensive lineman Isaac Washington after being arrested on misdemeanor charges.

Heupel says the Vols will keep getting more efficient.

“For being this early in the process, I love where we’re at,” Heupel said.

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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