We’ve written quite a bit about Tennessee football‘s practices under Josh Heupel over the past several weeks. There were blindfolded walk-throughs, accountability/teamwork exercises and a dodgeball match that would’ve struck fear into the Globo Gym Purple Cobras. Heupel is pulling out all of the stops early into his tenure on Rocky Top.
But it gets even better. To kick-off spring practice with full equipment, the new UT head coach surprised the team with a refreshing post-practice treat. Yes, the Tennessee football locker room was filled with happy campers and ice cream wrappers early last week.
Fans should be encouraged by the interpersonal progress this roster has made throughout the short time Heupel’s coaching staff has been in Knoxville. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few hiccups during this time as well, but young men make mistakes every day.
This new culture has seemingly inspired those players to take accountability for their wrongdoings – that’s the important part. Senior defensive back Theo Jackson may have put it best: Tennessee football with Josh Heupel on the headset is “just a different vibe.”
Jackson wasn’t the only upperclassmen to take notice of the different atmosphere that encompasses Rocky Top’s facilities. Fifth-year senior Velus Jones Jr. commented on his relationship with Heupel earlier this week on UT’s podcast, “The Slice”.
“I’ve never ever felt so comfortable around a coach that I can just talk about anything, talk ball to about anytime. It’s just a really like family feeling. It’s all great vibes upstairs. I’ve never experienced that.”
A transfer from the USC Trojans, Jones has learned from a handful of mighty football minds over his playing career, including national championship quarterback Tee Martin last year. That’s part of what made his comments on UT’s new leadership so encouraging.
Those eager to see the “different vibe” Heupel and his coaching staff have brought to the program are in luck. The team announced this week its plan to hold open practice at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 10, at 10 a.m.
Weather permitting, this Saturday will mark the first in-person practice open to fans and members of media since August 2018, according to David Ubben of The Athletic. All lights are blaring green on Rocky Top.
Heupel clearly has a different way of doing things, and he isn’t afraid to own it all. Those wearing the jerseys themselves seem to be the most excited about the new coaching staff out of anyone. As senior defensive back Alontae Taylor said when Tennessee football hired Heupel in January, “we got what we needed, not what outsiders thought we needed.”