5 things to know about Josh Heupel, Tennessee's new football coach

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

Central Florida coach Josh Heupel is Tennessee football's new coach

Tennessee hired athletics director Danny White on Thursday. White was tasked with finding the next Vols coach after Jeremy Pruitt was fired for cause last week amid an ongoing investigation into recruiting malfeasance.

Here are five things to know about Huepel:

OPINION: 10 things I think about Tennessee football hiring Josh Heupel as coach

HEUPEL'S GOAL:Why did Josh Heupel want to become the Tennessee football coach? To 'chase championships'

ADAMS:Josh Heupel could be the anti-Pruitt for Tennessee Vols. That's a good thing

Josh Heupel was hired by Danny White before

Heupel was hired by White at UCF in 2017 after former Knights coach Scott Frost was hired at Nebraska, his alma mater, following an undefeated season.

It was his first time being a head coach after more than a decade of assistant coach experience.

Heupel, 42, coached at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops from 2006-14. He was quarterbacks coach from 2006-10 before adding a co-offensive coordinator role. Heupel and Jay Norvell, who is now Nevada's coach, spent four seasons as Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinators before Stoops fired them.

Heupel was Utah State's offensive coordinator before his first stint in the SEC at Missouri as offensive coordinator.

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo, Josh Heupel, right, is introduced as the new Central Florida head football coach by Danny White, UCF Athletic director in Orlando, Fla. Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey says UCF should look "inward" to address strength of schedule issues that have held back the Knights in the College Football Playoff rankings. White says Knights can do nothing to fix an “inadequate postseason." (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

First-year success

Heupel's best season at UCF was his first. The Knights had an undefeated regular season at 12-0 before losing to LSU, 40-32, in the Fiesta Bowl to fall shy of a second straight unbeaten season.

He finished 28-8 in three seasons.

UCF went 10-3 in 2019 with all three losses by a combined five points. The Knights slipped to 6-4 in 2020.

UCF lost three regular-season games in 2020 by a combined 12 points before it was blown out by BYU in the Boca Raton Bowl. 

THE BASICS:Tennessee football hires Josh Heupel — Here's how to pronounce his name

Offense good, defense bad

UCF has ranked in the top eight nationally in scoring offense in each of Huepel's three seasons. The Knights have averaged at least 42.2 points per game in each of Heupel's seasons.

Heupel also led UCF to back-to-back top-10 passing seasons in his final two years in Orlando. The Knights passed for 316.7 yards per game in 2019, and 357.4 in 2020 to rank fourth nationally. 

His 2020 defense ranked No. 123 of 127 after allowing 491.8 yards per game. UCF also was No. 95 in 2018, Heupel's first year.  The Knights defense was much better in 2019, when it held opponents to 346.1 yards per game. 

Heupel was the offensive coordinator at Missouri for two seasons, as the Tigers averaged 37.5 points per game in 2017. His success led him to land the UCF job following the 2017 season.

Heupel was the offensive coordinator when Missouri beat Tennessee 50-17 in Butch Jones' final game as the Vols head coach.

Heisman runner-up

-Heisman Trophy finalists, from left, quarterback Drew Brees, of Purdue, running back LaDainain Tomlinson, of Texas Christian, quarterback Josh Heupel, of Oklahoma, and quarterback Chris Weinke, of Florida State, laugh during the trophy ceremony Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000, at New York's Downtown Athletic Club. Weinke was voted the winner.

Heupel was Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2000 as the Oklahoma quarterback. He led the Sooners to an undefeated season and a national championship with a win against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. He finished behind FSU quarterback Chris Weinke, who coached at Tennessee for the past three seasons under Pruitt.

Heupel completed 64.6% of his passes for 3,606 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also rushed for seven touchdowns.

He threw for 7,066 yards and 50 touchdowns in 24 games at Oklahoma.

REACTION:Tennessee football hires Josh Heupel and Vol Twitter doesn't know what to feel

Quarterback coaching

Heupel coached Sam Bradford at Oklahoma. Bradford won the 2008 Heisman Trophy and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He also coached Landry Jones, who started 53 games at Oklahoma from 2009-12. Jones was a fourth-round NFL Draft pick.

At Missouri, he coached quarterback Drew Lock, who gave Tennessee fits in his career before he was picked in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Denver. 

Heupel worked with McKenzie Milton at UCF in 2018 after Frost established Milton as a force. 

The finances

Heupel was awarded a contract extension and raise after his first season at UCF. His deal with the Knights runs through 2023-24 and pays him $2.3 million annually.

Heupel's buyout is about $3.5 million.

Heupel's initial contract with UCF was a five-year deal worth $1.7 million annually.

The News Sentinel's Blake Toppmeyer contributed to this report.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.