Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. Photo via Tennessee Athletics (2021)
Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel is looking for a new offensive coordinator after South Florida hired Alex Golesh as its newest head coach Saturday night.
Golesh spent three years with Heupel — one at UCF and two at Tennessee — before earning his own opportunity to be a head coach. The 39-year old Ohio State graduate was instrumental in helping build Tennessee’s offense into one of college football’s best.
However, he does’t deserve complete credit. Tennessee’s offense is Heupel’s baby and from the concepts to the game planning to the play calling, Heupel had his hand in it all.
Before we discuss three names of coaches that have ties to Heupel and could replace Golesh, don’t rule out Heupel only hiring a tight ends coach (Golesh other position) and leaving the offensive coordinator spot vacant. Heupel could also look outside of his coaching family too as he did when he hired Goleh at UCF in 2020.
Nevertheless, here are three names to keep an eye on as Tennessee searches for its newest offensive coordinator.
Joey Halzle, Tennessee QB Coach
There’s no one with more familiarity with Josh Heupel and his offensive system than Tennessee quarterback coach Joey Halzle. Halzle’s been with Heupel since he was a back up quarterback at Oklahoma.
Since then, he’s followed Heupel everywhere. After a graduate assistant stint at Oklahoma, Halzle followed Heupel to Utah State and then Missouri as an offensive analyst. At UCF, Halzle spent one year as an offensive analyst and another as quarterbacks coach.
The pros and cons for hiring Halzle are clear. Halzle knows Heupel’s system and the two clearly have a comfort level with one another. On the flip side, Halzle has very little experience. He’s only been a college quarterback for three years and has no experience calling plays.
A co-offensive coordinator role could be a compromise for Halzle as well.
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Jeff Lebby, Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator
Jeffy Lebby spent nine years in different roles at Baylor learning Art Briles’ offense that Tennessee runs a version of. Lebby then spent two years with Heupel at UCF the latter of which was as offensive coordinator.
Ahead of Heupel’s last year in Orlando, Lebby left to become Lane Kiffin’s offensive coordinator at Ole Miss. Lebby had an abundance of success with Kiffin before leaving last season to become the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.
Lebby’s familiarity with Heupel and Oklahoma’s lack of success last season are reasons the 38-year old could look to make a move. However, there are plenty of reasons he wouldn’t.
For one, Oklahoma hired Lebby to a lucrative three-year contract that pays him an average of $1.9 million a year. At his alma mater, Lebby is in complete control of the offense under defensive head coach Brent Venables. That wold not be the case at Tennessee where he’d just be another cook in the kitchen.
Lebby staying at Oklahoma and having success is his fastest path to becoming a head coach.
Anthony Tucker, Utah State Offensive Coordinator
Tucker spent three years as an assistant for Heupel at UCF where he coached running backs and later became co-offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator.
When Heupel went to Tennessee, Tucker went to Utah State where he became offensive coordinator for the first time in the college ranks.
Tucker’s offense had tremendous success in his first year in Logan, Utah averaging 32.6 points per game in an 11-3 record. However, the offense took a step back this season averaging just 23.3 points per game in a 6-6 regular season.
A major reason for the step back offensively was a quarterback injury. Logan Bonner was a star in 2021 but suffered a season ending injury just a month into the 2022 season.