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Why Tennessee Vols’ coach Josh Heupel is better than ever before

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Tennessee had better be ready to pull out the check book. Football coach Josh Heupel is on the verge of getting much more valuable. And he hasn’t even coached a game this season.

Why? It’s simple. Heupel is one of the best quarterback coaches in the nation. There aren’t many of those. They are about to become very coveted and much, much more valuable than ever before.

The NCAA is on the verge of expanding college coaching staffs, per various reports. In other words, all those analysts that have become so prominent will be allowed to coach on the practice and game fields, which was a loose rule that was often broken. Officially expanding coaching staffs isn’t great for smaller schools since football budgets will have to rise to pay more coaches. Those smaller schools won’t likely be able to match the extra spending. Well, that’s life.

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As it pertains to the “haves” in college football, which would include Tennessee, there is an opportunity to make coaching staffs much larger and much better. That’s not good for the East Tennessee States, Middle Tennessee States and Chattanoogas of the world, but there’s not much that can be done at this point. The Super Conference is happening right before your eyes. Thanks to some deft fund raising by Tennessee athletic director Danny White, the Vols are in position to benefit from any rules change that allows Tennessee to pour more money into their athletic department.

UT has the funds to bring in whomever they’d like once the increased coaching staff movement is passed. The Vols could hire a quarterback coach, but why would they? Heupel has that covered. That’s not the case for other schools. The Vols’ last opponent, Iowa, could use some quarterback mentoring. If they can afford it.

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Heupel’s skills with quarterbacks is an incredible advantage over other schools. Why? Because there just aren’t many great quarterback coaches that aren’t already coordinators or head coaches. That, however, doesn’t mean the Vols can’t upgrade their staff if the NCAA allows them to do so. That makes one wonder if a defensive backs analyst might be in order.

No offense to Tennessee defensive backs coach Willie Martinez, but he looks like he could use some help. The Vols have obviously struggled in defending the pass, finishing eighth, 12th and 14th, respectively, over the past three seasons against opposing passing attacks. Statistically, the Vols are getting better, but who couldn’t use a little hand now and again?

Whether Martinez likes to admit it or not, he is a more valuable recruiter for the Vols than a position coach, despite Tennessee’s recent improvement in pass defense. That can be attributed to a million things, but overall talent is the most likely cause for the positive trend. That being the case, imagine a new role for Martinez.

There’s no question that Martinez should continue to be a part of the Vols’ staff. He just signed a contract extension and seems to vibe with defensive coordinator Tim Banks and the Vols’ aggressive style. However, what if Martinez had another coach to help him mentor the Vols’ defensive backs while he focused just a bit more on recruiting, perhaps as the Vols’ recruiting coordinator? With another coach, who may already be in the wings, Martinez could go from dud to stud in Tennessee’s fan’s eyes practically overnight.

You may have noticed that I never called for Martinez’ job despite the Vols’ struggles in the secondary. Why? Well, there’s that whole masterful recruiting thing he has going on. Second, the Vols had to replace two coaches during this offseason. This is not the time to revamp a coaching staff anymore than necessary with such a big season on the horizon.

Tennessee, Heupel, White and the Vols have been ahead of the curve on major changes handed down by the NCAA. Well, it’s time for the Vols to lead once again. It’s a simple numbers game.

NFL teams have 53 men on a roster while college football teams have about 100 players including each school’s practice squad. NFL teams can have as many coaches as they would like. College programs are limited to 11 coaches total, including the head coach, that can be on the field coaching. That would seem to be spreading things a bit thin.

I’ve never been for expanding college football coaching staffs because it would surely create a chasm between the best programs in the nation and those struggling to pay there bills. However, with the trend of a Super Conference bearing down on college football, it’s time for Heupel and the Vols to be on the front end of a shift that could boost their defensive backfield while the rest of college football scurries for the next great quarterback coach.

The Vols don’t have to worry about that. They have Heupel.

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