What New Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Joey Halzle Said Wednesday

BREAKING: Heupel Fills Tennessee's Offensive Coordinator Vacancy

Tennessee Players, Staff React to Joey Halzle PromotionPhoto By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee assistant coach Joey Halzle met with the local media Wednesday afternoon for the first time since Josh Heupel promoted him to offensive coordinator following the 2022 season.

Halzle spent the last two seasons as Tennessee’s quarterback coach after coming from Central Florida to Knoxville with Heupel. The former Oklahoma quarterback has spent his entire career under Heupel and has a strong grasp of his system.

Halzle discussed his new role, the Vols’ incoming transfers and much more. Here’s everything Halzle said Wednesday afternoon.

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On what his main focus is entering spring practice

“Overall, as an entire offensive unit, the main thing is that these guys understand that what we were able to accomplish last year does not just happen because you are here and you were the No. 1 offense in the country. You don’t just get to be that next year. Making sure that everybody knows the amount of work that went into that. Remembers the guys that were here last year that did it. You got to remember what you put in to make that happen, and the new guys just got to understand that just because you come into this system, with this group of guys around you, you don’t just get to do what a Jalin Hyatt, or a Cedric Tillman, or a Hendon Hooker did. They put in the work to go earn that. That’s what the main focus for the entire offseason is. We have to start back at square one. Last year’s plays have absolutely nothing to do with next year’s.”

On how he’d describe new tight end coach Alec Abeln’s coaching style

“Coach Abeln does a great job with scheme. He’s a schemer. He’s always done that, from back at UCF to here now. He’s great in the run-game, he’s great in protections from being on that side of the ball as a player, as well. So, a lot of our run-game this year had his handprints all over it. He’s also an elite teacher of football. Not just a communicator of information, but he can teach at a really, really high level. That’s something that I know Coach Heupel values in this building, having guys that can teach, not just tell you what’s been told to them, but actually teach it and convey it to each person individually.”

On incoming transfers John Campbell and Dont’e Thornton

“Starting with John Campbell, you have a very large, athletic guy right there. Long arms, big hands, he has everything you want as a tackle. He’ll have a great chance to compete for a bunch of playing time. We got three or four or five really good tackles in that room that can go and play a bunch of ball. Really excited about his athleticism and his experience, he’s played a lot of big-time football. He’s not going to step into any kind of arena that’s too big for him. We’re really excited about what he can bring.

With Dont’e (Thornton), really big guy that can run. He’s 6’4-plus, the day he steps on the field he might always be the fastest guy on the field. That guy can really roll. He does a great job of giving you position flexibility with what he has done and his ability to get in and out of breaks. He’s fluid, he can roll over the in-steps, he can do all of that type of stuff. He can read defenses from his time playing college football. He gives you a chance to move him all over the field and create mismatches.”

On what he saw from Joe Milton’s game film

“Joe (Milton III) did a great job when he was the backup last year of preparing himself like he was the starter, which is why whenever he came into the game, he played at a really high level. When he moved over to the starter at the end of the year, same type of guy. He didn’t change. He didn’t think he had to be different because he was in the starting role, like ‘hey, I’m a different guy now I change.’ No, he’s still him, he’s still himself moving forward. That’s why you saw him continue to have more and more success from the week one I’ll call it against Vanderbilt to the Orange Bowl. He just kept growing. He doesn’t feel like, ‘I’m an older guy, I got this thing figured out.’ He still attacks his preparation as if he’s a young guy, ‘I want to learn, I want to know everything’ and that’s why you see him make the growth that he’s made.”

On how much his Orange Bowl role looked like his role moving forward

“The Orange Bowl was still us. That’s who we are. We’re going to play with tempo. We’re going to go vertical on people. We’re going to dictate the pace of play. We’re going to dictate what the defense can and can’t do, when they can sub and when they can’t. The aggression of which we attack, we try and score from all over the field. One of our biggest sayings is it’s really hard to score when you aren’t trying. So we try to score the ball. Whenever we get it, we anticipate crossing the goal line with it. That is who we are. We are going to attack, that isn’t changing. That’s what we are, that’s what we said we were going to be the first day we got here. Nothing of that is changing now.”

On if anything has changed for him since the Orange Bowl

“Maybe a little bit. It’s been a little bit of running the room, but the guys in there – it’s been so communal in there from the very beginning. Everybody has a voice in that, now at the end, Coach Heupel and myself has to make the final call, ‘Okay, this is what we’re ending up doing.’ But it’s never been one guy talking and everyone else taking notes. It’s always been extremely conversational, that’s how the whole building is run. As far as that one, it’s been mostly on the recruiting side of now being responsible for the entire offensive side that you’re recruiting, as opposed to making sure you get your position. Having more phone calls to make, more contact to make with kids, when they’re on-campus they have a coordinator meeting. There’s a lot more to it on that side of the spectrum, as opposed to just being in the room and talking ball, which is what we do.”

On what Josh Heupel promoting from within says

“I think it starts with what Coach Heupel expects from what we call the young coaching staff, the support staff on the side. They are coaches. They know football, they know how to teach, they know how to work, and they know what we do and how to do it at a high level. When he brings them in on the front end, he’s not just hiring helping hands. He wants to hire people that he sees being able to take that next step in the future. It’s not exclusively that way, but I think that’s why you’ve seen that two years in a row, because he’s hired two young guys that he knew were elite at their position and he got to see that first hand for a year on one end, and two years on the other end and knew with a lot of confidence that they’d be able to step in and preform at a high level.”

On what position Cameron Seldon will start at in the spring

“He gives you a chance to do some really fun stuff. Obviously, with a young guy that’s first time in the building, you got to be careful to not bog somebody down and overload them with everything you could do. You got to get him good at one thing first. Where he ends up starting out, as we get through our pre-spring stuff before we get on the field for spring ball we’ll make that decision more definitive as we roll based on what he can handle, what he does well, what he doesn’t do well. Then once he gets one thing cemented –okay he’s really good at this – now you can start growing a guy like that’s extra roles. Really whatever they can handle, starting at a young age and moving on through his time throughout the program.”

On Nico Iamaleava participating in the Polynesian Bowl

“Loved having all these guys here. We basically got another spring ball with them, almost. A lot of them were doing scout team and all that, but being able to sit in meetings, start learning the terminology. He came back this January and he had transferred all of his notes to his iPad that he had. He knows a lot of the way we call stuff, the way we take our drops, all of that when he first got on campus is monumental. Now, you can start going into the details of actually playing the quarterback position because he has a firm understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish when we’re calling plays.

He’s young, he’s got to learn, but I thought it was great that he got to go play football with us in December, and then go play more football, and then come back so you’re not two months off your high school career the first time you’re picking up a ball again. I thought that was really beneficial for him. I love when the guys can go play their all-star games, it’s a cool experience for them. It’s something that they’ve earned over their career, we would never take away someone’s ability to go play in an all-star game.”

On having receivers that can play multiple positions

“That is big. Any time you get skill position players that can create matchup issues, whether that is size on a smaller defensive back or speed on a bigger linebacker, it gives you an ability to create explosive plays in the offense that are outside the realm of what you typically do. If you can put stuff like that on tape, you just become more and more difficult to defend. Your base stuff is still what you do, you have to operate that at a high level, but as soon as you can start saying ‘how do I get this guy on this guy?’ and create a matchup in our favor, now you are working with some stuff that can be some game-changing type situations. What you saw us do with Jalin Hyatt quite a bit last year, getting him on the right body. Not just putting him on the same guy over and over, but we got him on a certain person specifically, and he was able to turn those into touchdowns a lot of the time.”

On the biggest thing he learned under Alex Golesh

“The biggest thing from Coach Golesh is he is extremely organized and detailed about how he goes through every aspect of this job. From organizing the staff room, to organizing the unit meeting, to organizing recruiting, everything about that was not just shooting from the hip. Understanding that I probably do not even know everything that I do not know yet, as long as you are detail-oriented and know exactly how you want to go through everything, it gives you a chance to get out ahead of those mistakes that you may make as a first-time coordinator. Saying ‘Man, I did not see that one coming.’ So, learning from him has been really big-time as far as making sure you have all your ducks in a row and that you are ready to go, because the meeting is going to roll as you roll now.”

On the third string quarterback

“They (Gaston Moore and Navy Shuler) are going to have a chance to this spring, absolutely. With the transfer portal, you never know who is coming in and out of your building anymore. So, do you have to be always evaluating? Yes, absolutely, but we really like the guys in that room. We have good players, we have good people that are smart and competitive and tough, and that is how we are trying to build that room. So, [I] do not see a pressing need, but it could absolutely be one at some point. So, I am not going to sit here and say yes or no at this point.”

On how he figured out he got promoted

“[Coach Heupel] called me and said ‘Are you ready?’ I said ‘Yes, sir,’ and he said ‘Okay.’ That was kind of the end of that one. It has been fun moving up, because I have been with Coach Heupel my whole career, and I think, for a lot of young coaches, it is hard to get out of that view as a support staff type guy. Getting moved into my first position job, getting brought here, and then getting bumped up to coordinator. He sees that I am doing it the right way and the way that he wants it done, and he sees that I can be a benefit to the program because if he did not see it that way, it would not have happened. He was not just doing it just to do it. That was the biggest thing, he is instilling the confidence without having to give you a pep talk, because he understands that this was the best thing for the program, in his opinion.”

On Nico Iamaleava getting reps

“With the numbers in that room, there are a lot of reps to go around, which is completely different from the last couple of years that we were here. It is huge. The biggest thing about freshmen getting here, whether it is December for bowl practice or in spring ball, is they get a chance to mess it up. They are going to, I have told them that. ‘You are going to mess it up, do not play timid, do not play slow trying to be right, play fast as you can, rip it all over the field, make your mistakes, we will come into the film room and learn from them, and we will go back out there and try to make less each day as we are moving forward.’ It gives you the chance that, when fall camp comes around, they are not trying to figure out what to do, they have run all of this before, they have seen all of these different defensive looks, and now they are finding themselves as a player and how they operate in the system, which now gives you a chance to actually go operate with live fire in the fall.”

Author: Ethan Moore