For those that are concerned about Tennessee’s play-calling duties this fall, don’t be. Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel and newly named offensive coordinator Joey Halzle will be just fine. There are other things that should top your list of concerns.
When former Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh left the Vols to become the head coach at South Florida, Heupel was presented with a couple of options. He could elevate Halzle or hire an offensive coordinator from elsewhere. He made the wise move.
Tennessee has been down this road before. The Vols have hired an outsider to head up their offense and saw that move explode smack dab in the middle of Neyland Stadium. Former UT coach Phillip Fulmer hired Dave Clawson in 2008. That was a disaster. Fulmer was fired because he wasn’t ready to relinquish control and Clawson wasn’t ready for the position.
There was no way that Heupel was going to hand over the offense to anyone. It’s his offense. When replacing a coordinator, you have to hire from within your coaching staff or turn over all control. Well, Heupel wasn’t going to turn over control. Why would he after the success he’s had? Halzle was a natural choice.
As for play calling, that’s the most overrated aspect in all of sports. I’d rather Halzle be an expert at finding unique tendencies and developing a game plan leading up to the days of the game than be a great play caller. As much as it might seem odd, the latter isn’t as important.
Having a great game plan allows the play calling to come naturally as the game evolves. Then, there’s the fact that great beats good no matter how much thought is put into it. Think of Nolan Ryan or Mariano Rivera. Sure, it would be nice to know when a changeup was coming, but batters still couldn’t hit the fastball most of the time. That’s how Tennessee’s offense plays. Play calling should come naturally to Heupel or Halzle if the game plan is on point. Unless Golesh was the Wizard of Oz behind the scenes, the pre-game planning will still be on point this season.
Other than game planning, Halzle can be a great help at designing plays. This is where his youth can benefit him. Young coaches tend to think in unconventional ways. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Halzle was involved in some of Tennessee’s more unique play calls last season, such as the goal line pass to Jalin Hyatt in the flat or the various ways that the Vols utilized tight end Princeton Fant. There are plenty of things that Halzle can do to improve Tennessee’s offense on a week-to-week basis other than play calling. Heupel can handle that just fine.
Halzle’s skill set is pretty clear. He played quarterback and has coached quarterbacks at Tennessee so if the Vols wanted to keep him around, he was going to have to be a quarterbacks coach or an offensive coordinator. It was natural to give him the title and the pay boost. After all, someone had to be UT’s offensive coordinator even though we all know this is Heupel’s offense. Credit Heupel for knowing Golesh’s departure might be imminent and having Halzle ready.