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Tennessee football: Is it a red flag if Joey Halzle isn’t Vols’ next OC?

Joey Halzle
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Very few coaches who have held an on-field role for just three years have the qualifications to immediately become an offensive coordinator. Tennessee football offensive coordinator Joey Halzle is among the very few.

Halzle was first promoted to an on-field assistant role in 2020 as quarterbacks coach of the UCF Knights under Josh Heupel. He then followed Heupel to the Vols and has held the same role the past two years.

All three of those years, Halzle worked under offensive coordinator Alex Golesh. However, with the South Florida Bulls naming Golesh as their new coach, Halzle seems like the obvious choice for Tennessee football to replace him.

Despite limited official experience, nobody knows Heupel’s offense better than Halzle. He has worked directly with Heupel now for 15 of the past 17 years, the only other two working in the private sector, 2017 and 2018.

That includes every stop Heupel has been at, even that one season with the Utah State Aggies. He’s been an offensive quality control coach, an offensive graduate assistant, an offensive analyst and an assistant quarterbacks coach.

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Now, given that time with Heupel and his recent experience, it would be a red flag is Halzle didn’t replace Golesh as the Vols’ new OC. However, some red flags may already exist.

After all, why did it take so long for Halzle to attain an on-field role? It didn’t happen until after Jeff Lebby, Heupel’s OC at UCF in 2018 and 2019, left for the same role under Lane Kiffin with the Ole Miss Rebels.

Still, Heupel values continuity. Halzle will bring that. He obviously needs somebody who understands his offense. Is anybody more familiar with that than Halzle?

More importantly, unlike Golesh, Halzle is a quarterbacks coach. Since the quarterback is basically an extension of the coaches, OC’s are usually quarterbacks coaches as well.

Phillip Fulmer suffered from bad OC hires to replace David Cutcliffe twice in Randy Sanders and Dave Clawson. However, Cutcliffe was a quarterbacks coach, so promoting from within was tricker, and Sanders was running backs coach for Tennessee football.

Butch Jones, whose program was a house of cards anyway, accentuated his downfall when he promoted Larry Scott to OC in 2017. Scott was a tight ends coach, and the reason he couldn’t promote from within is when he lost OC Mike DeBord, he also lost his quarterbacks coach.

Lebby was a quarterbacks coach under Heupel, so when he left, that’s why Halzle got the on-field role in the first place. It makes sense that he didn’t get the OC job then since it was his first on-field role.

However, if you ever lose your OC but still maintain your quarterbacks coach, then your replacement should be the easiest move in the book. That’s the situation Tennessee football is in with Halzle.

If Heupel promoted Halzle, all he would have to do is find an elite recruiter for his tight ends coach. That’s generally one of the position coaches responsible for focusing primarily on recruiting anyway.

Simply put, there has never been a more obvious choice for a coordinator role than Halzle. If Tennessee football doesn’t promote him, then there’s a red flag, and something’s not right.

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