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Tennessee football: Looking back on who was proven dead wrong about the Josh Heupel hire two years later

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From national media to Vol Nation, Danny White took a ton of heat when he brought his head coach with him from the UCF Knights to Rocky Top. Friday, Jan. 27, marks two years since Tennessee football hired Josh Heupel.

Everybody is on board now after what the Vols just accomplished this past year. However, let’s not forget all the people were radically opposed to the hire when it happened. Let’s call out those who slammed the hire.

An award winning sports writer and editor who now publishes Oklahoma Columnist, Clay Horning was a senior columnist for The Norman Transcript, a daily newspaper in Norman, Okla., where the Sooners are, when he wrote this gem. To be fair, he hedged about the possibility of Heupel being a different guy.

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However, the article is all about Heupel failing into the job. Horning misrepresented his record as OU’s offensive coordinator and ignored the way Bob Stoops forced an offense on Trevor Knight that Heupel didn’t want to run. He also ignored the injuries when slamming Heupel’s one year at Utah State.

Two years later, he seems safe because he hedged so much, but while Heupel may be a different guy, what’s more clear is circumstances were working against him at OU and Utah State. It’s now clear that Heupel was somewhat railroaded by Stoops.

Another Clay missed the mark, this one more affiliated with UT than OU. Being wrong on predictions is par for the course with Clay Travis. His COVID predictions in 2020 were among the most wrong in media, and nobody predicted a “red tsunami” midterm election in 2022 more than he did. However, before fully venturing into the world of politics, he had one more dead wrong prediction for Tennessee football.

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Travis thought three coaches who had all gotten in some trouble with the NCAA in the past just were the best candidates to be hired by the Vols, a program that was had just fired a coach for major NCAA violations and was under investigation. Seriously.

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports gives Josh Heupel hire a C grade

Other, more accomplished candidates, were no doubt scared away by the NCAA investigation. Sure, he’s the offensive-friendly guy that AD Danny White wanted, but in the end, this seemed like a fall back when the likes of Tony Elliott decided to stay put. Heupel’s record at UCF declined each season.”

For context to Dennis Dodd’s grading, he gave Butch Jones’ hire at Arkansas State a B and Bryan Harsin at Auburn an A-. What he said about Tony Elliott isn’t crazy, as that seemed like the best splash hire for Tennessee football at the time, but Jones and Harsin getting higher grades than Heupel is ridiculous.

Stewart Mandel of The Athletic ranks Josh Heupel as the worst Power Five coaching hire

“It’s never a good sign when the fan base of the school a coach left is not exactly heartbroken to see him go. Heupel had a great first season taking over for Scott Frost but regressed each year since. Now he’s walking into a dumpster fire of a program he’ll need to build from the ground up. The good news: He has a long track record of producing star QBs and prolific offenses, neither of which Vols fans have experienced in some time.

Another C grade, Stewart Mandel had Jedd Fisch at Arizona and Shane Beamer at South Carolina above Heupel. Still think UCF fans don’t want him back? Gus Malzahn has been solid there but has yet to see a top 25 finish. Oh, and at the Group of Five level, he gave Jones a B+. Harsin was ahead of him too.

Another local media member that slammed the hire, this is an article from Drew Nicholson published the day Heupel was introduced. Nicholson slammed Heupel’s lack of recruiting and his defensive woes at UCF. Sure, the defensive issues are still there. Anybody questioning recruiting now?

Owner of 440 Sports in Nashville, ESPN Radio host and Athlon Sports writer, Braden Gall does a lot of good work, but he severely missed the mark here. Gall didn’t hedge after taking a huge shot at Heupel’s track record, to be fair, but he certainly was wrong on his rankings and saying he doesn’t think Heupel is the guy.

Of all the misses, the two Clays probably had the worst takes, but the grades turned out to be pretty wrong too. Tennessee football made a lot of analysts look bad with the success Heupel had last year, and he’s gone from a hire everybody hated to arguably the hottest commodity in the sport.

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