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Tennessee football: Joey Halzle named OC proves Josh Heupel’s commitment to stability

Joey Halzle
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For the second straight year, Tennessee football had a staff opening under Josh Heupel. Just like last year, Heupel promoted from within to fill the vacancy.

Kelsey Pope was promoted from an off-field assistant to wide receivers coach to replace Kodi Burns. This time, though, Heupel promoted for a much more significant role.

In a shock to nobody, Tennessee football named Joey Halzle its new offensive coordinator Thursday. Halzle replace Alex Golesh, who has taken over as head coach of the South Florida Bulls.

As the quarterbacks coach for Tennessee football the past two years under Heupel, this was a smooth transition. Halzle took on most of the OC duties in the Vols’ 31-14 Orange Bowl win over the Clemson Tigers.

Everything about the hire makes sense. Halzle has been with Heupel ever since he was a quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners from 2006 to 2008 and Heupel was his position coach.

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After that, he held off-field roles everywhere Heupel went from 2009 to 2016. He worked in the private sector in 2017 and 2018, rejoined Heupel in 2019 and got his first on-field role as UCF Knights QB coach in 2020.

Simply put, if Heupel didn’t promote Halzle, it would have been a red flag on Halzle. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t serve as proof Heupel values continuity.

Plenty of other people to work under Heupel and even work over him would technically be more qualified on paper for the role than Halzle, and they almost all would have likely taken the job. Heupel chose Halzle, though.

This is a clear sign of Heupel’s confidence in his system. It’s more about what he runs and the quarterback he has to run it than anything else, and he’s pretty confident in the revolving door of assstants.

Now, Tennessee football history shows stability isn’t always a good thing. Phillip Fulmer was committed to his staff and simply promoted guys from within to replace other coaches.

Most infamous among those promotions was Randy Sanders as David Cutcliffe’s OC replacement in 1999. However, promoting Cutcliffe as his replacement in 1993 and John Chavis as Larry Marmie’s replacement in 1995 worked out.

Also, Fulmer’s worst hire, the one that got him fired, was when he brought somebody from outside. That was after Cutcliffe left a second time in 2008. He brought in Dave Clawson, whose philosophy clashed with Fulmer’s.

Simply put, staying within the program or going outside to find somebody isn’t inherently good or bad. Other dynamics are in play when you do that.

In Fulmer’s case, he was more of a CEO than a guru despite being a former coordinator, so his success depended heavily on his hires inside or outside the program. Some worked out, and some didn’t.

Heupel on the other hand, is an offensive guru, so on that side of the ball, his confidence in what he does means stability is more important. Defense is a different story.

Either way, though, Halzle is exactly the hire Tennessee football needs right now, and he’s easily the best fit. Based on how Joe Milton III performed in the bowl game, it should work out too.

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