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Tennessee football TE Jacob Warren high on Joey Halzle as new OC

Joey Halzle
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You probably don’t know much about Joey Halzle, the new Tennessee football new offensive coordinator. That’s understandable. There hasn’t been much to know about the budding, young coach with a resume that is growing faster than kudzu with fertilizer.

Halzle wasn’t even a full-time coach in 2019, just three season ago. He was an offensive analyst, which is a lot like being a paid intern in college football. Halzle also wasn’t all that well known as a player. He was the backup quarterback to Sam Bradford at Oklahoma. Halzle’s job was to watch, learn and be ready if anything happened to Bradford, who eventually won the Heisman Trophy.

Halzle’s role as a player would lead one to believe two things. First, Halzle is a football guy. He’s willing to sit the bench and forgo playing time because he loves the game. Second, he should be a great coach. Backup quarterbacks often are great coaches because they have to work harder to be a factor on the roster. They’re not just anointed with great talent, like Bradford. Hence, Tennessee football head coach Josh Heupel named Halzle to replace former UT offensive coordinator Alex Golesh, who became the head coach at South Florida.

When asked of Halzle, Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren said, “He’s a very intellectual, very smart, a very intelligent coach (and) person. Just the way he talks, in the way that he communicates a lot of things on the field. You know if I have a question about where the quarterback might need me or want me on on a route that I’m running or maybe a protection, where my eye should be, he’s always very articulate in the way that that he explains it to me, which I appreciate because that’s how I would prefer to take in information, is someone just explaining exactly how it is.”

Hiring Halzle instead of conducting a vast coaching search for a more proven coordinator almost guarantees the Vols of one thing. Tennessee should have the same, or close to the same, special chemistry it had in 2022 when it made such an unexpected run to an 11-2 record.  

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“We have a great relationship just because you know we get along very well off the field,” Warren said of Halzle. “He’s got a great family, great kids and they’re always running around and it’s always fun to interact with with them and just super excited for him…Being a younger guy and getting this opportunity to take hold of this offense and continue what we’ve got rolling here.”

Halzle, who will celebrate his 39th birthday this month, is certainly young by SEC-offensive coordinator standards. He’s not the only young coach on Tennessee staff, especially on offense. Heupel is 44-years-old. Offensive line coach Glen Elarbee and running backs coach Jerry Mack are 42-years-old. Receivers coach Kelsey Pope is just 30-years-old. Sure, they’re all old enough to buy a lottery ticket, but they’re babies by comparison to other college coaching staffs. Yet, they’re making playing offense in the SEC look like child’s play.

“It’s everybody kind of working together to put the best plan together,” Warren said, “so obviously Halzle was involved in that process and so now, just now, that he’s the one that’ll be technically in the lead, it’ll still be the same exact format…all working together to try to bring their pieces of the puzzle in and try to figure it out.”

The obvious question that fans want to know is who will be calling plays, Heupel or Halzle. One would think it would be Heupel, but as long as the proper game plan is in place, the Vols should be fine. Calling plays in Heupel’s offense isn’t nearly as challenging as making sure that players know the proper reads and has a firm grasp of the overall approach.

“They all know how to call the plays that we have,” Warren said. “Everyone’s been around football for longer than I’ve been alive, right? So, yeah, it would just be a matter of everybody gets on the same page and everybody going to work and doing everything they can to be successful.”

For the most part, that hasn’t been a problem to this point. In fact, there are times in which Warren knew what play was going to be called last season before it was even signalled in from the sideline.

“We do it to practice every single day,” Warren said. “We do it in the games every week and you kind of get familiar with how the coaches call it and kind of what they want to see. So yeah, you kind of pick up on it for sure.”

No offense to Golesh, who certainly had a fantastic season in 2022, but the Vols avoided any major sidetrack just by keeping coaching in house. Now, the Vols still have another opening on their coaching staff. Without having to worry about an experienced coach to fill the void, Tennessee football can hire the best recruiter it can find. It certainly would help if he could also coach tight ends since the Vols are now lacking in that department.

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