Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. Photo by Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.
Head coach Josh Heupel found quite a bit of success with the Tennessee football program in his second year at the helm during the 2022 season. Heupel led Tennessee to a 10-win regular season, a New Year’s Six bowl win over No. 7 Clemson, and streak-snapping victories against Florida and Alabama in Knoxville.
After starting the year unranked in the polls, Tennessee closed the season at AP No. 6, good for the Vols’ highest season-ending finish since the 2001 season.
On Thursday afternoon, CBS Sports announced grades for all of the second-year head coaches across the college football landscape.
Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel received an “A” grade from the national publication for the 2022 season. Going back a year, CBS Sports gave Heupel an “A-” after his first season on Rocky Top in 2021.
“When Tennessee hired Heupel, it was a move that made sense to me, but it wasn’t one I thought would be anything special,” Tom Fornelli wrote about Heupel and the Volunteers. “The program was under the threat of NCAA penalties and had not only been disappointing on the field but boring to watch. If nothing else, Heupel’s offense would make things fun on Rocky Top. Things have certainly been fun, but I didn’t see 2022 coming. The Vols went 11-2 this season, knocked off Alabama for what felt like the first time since the late 1800s, and finished the season with an Orange Bowl win over Clemson.”
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The 44-year-old head coach is now 18-8 over the span of two years at Tennessee, with one bowl loss and one bowl victory. Heupel is 46-16 in his overall five-year coaching career at UCF and Tennessee combined.
Out of the eight second-year Power 5 coaches that were graded by CBS, none have a higher grade than Heupel, while two other coaches also received an “A” grade.
Kansas HC Lance Leipold (8-17) and Illinois HC Bret Bielema (13-12) also received “A” grades from CBS.
From an SEC perspective, South Carolina’s Shane Beamer (15-11) finished with a “B+” and Vanderbilt’s Clark Lea (7-17) ended with a “B”. Auburn’s Bryan Harsin (9-12), who was fired mid-season, received the expected “F” grade.
Other notable names include Texas HC Steve Sarkisian (13-12) with a “C”, Arkansas State’s Butch Jones (5-19) with a “D”, and UCF’s Gus Malzahn (18-9) with a “B”.