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Tennessee football: Alex Golesh to USF; Vols will be fine

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Staff changes naturally come with success, and Tennessee football has now learned that. The Vols are losing offensive coordinator Alex Golesh to a new job.

Golesh will become head coach of the South Florida Bulls, according to Brett McMurphy of Action Network. McMurphy tweeted out the news late Saturday night.

It makes sense that Golesh would be a highly touted candidate. Coming with Josh Heupel from the UCF Knights to Tennessee football, he has led the Vols to back to back top 10 scoring offenses. They are No. 1 this year.

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However, UT will be able to overcome this departure. Golesh is a good coach, but this is Heupel’s offense. It’s his design, and he can find a coordinator to run it.

Remember, Heupel didn’t bring on Golesh until 2020, his last year at UCF. Before that, his offensive coordinator was Jeff Lebby, and UCF was slightly better on that side of the ball in 2018 and 2018 and significantly better as a team.

Heupel was also the offensive coordinator himself of the Missouri Tigers in 2016 and 2017, and they had the best offense in the SEC both years. Simply put, Heupel is the common denominator.

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Although Golesh has called the plays, Heupel is responsible for the formations and the system. He is obviously extremely hands-on, so not much will change.

Given how many plays Tennessee football runs with just reads by the quarterback, the play-calling isn’t really the major part of this offense anyway. Sure, they will have a couple drawn up each game that work well, but it’s much more about the system.

Look at Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. He replaces coordinators on a regular basis, but he’s a defensive guru, so that system doesn’t really change.

The same is true of Kirby Smart with the Georgia Bulldogs. He’s on his third offensive and third defensive coordinator, including replacing Dan Lanning from last year, and he’s got UGA en route to potentially a second straight national championship.

This isn’t to say every coach can withstand such departures. Phillip Fulmer’s success with Tennessee football was highly dependent on his coaches, particularly offensively. Losing David Cutcliffe after 1998 and then after 2007 really hurt him.

Since he’s an offensive guru, Heupel could suffer from the wrong defensive coordinator hire. Saban seems to be suffering that right now with Bill O’Brien as his offensive coordinator.

As long as Heupel is leading Tennessee football, though, offensive coordinator will never be an issue. He can find the guy he wants, and he may even be able to promote from within.

In addition to his role as the Vols’ offensive coordinator, Golesh was also their tight ends coach, so they have two vacancies to fill with his departure. Heupel may promote for one and hire outside for the other.

Before joining Heupel at UCF in 2020, Golesh spent four years as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the Iowa State Cyclones. He’s also been with the Illinois Fighting Illini, Toledo Rockets, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Northern Illinois Huskies and Ohio State Buckeyes.

At USF, Golesh replaces Jeff Scott, who went 4-26 in three years there. They finished this season 1-11 and fired Scott after the first Saturday in November.

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