Cainer’s Corner: Vol Twitter playing no games on a Tuesday

By: Eric Cain / @_Cainer 

Day 5 of the Tennessee football coaching search did not play out well on social media.

Tuesday night, Volquest reported the top emerging candidate to replace Jeremy Pruitt as Vols head coach is UCF’s Josh Heupel. The same UCF that Tennessee hired away Athletics Director Danny White from last week. The same coach White hired back in 2018 to replace Scott Frost who darted home to Nebraska.

I understand the frustration but it’s kind of funny to think about looking back five days ago.

White spent time addressing some negativity around the program during his introductory press conference last Friday. In summary, the new Volunteer boss said if fans are frustrated to text their friends and to stay off social media.

LOL at the time and LOL now on a Wednesday morning.

I’m sure White knew his comments on the matter wouldn’t make a difference – but he said all the right things. Nonetheless, when the latest report surfaced linking Heupel to the job, that was all out the window.

Disclaimer: A very small percentage of the Tennessee fan base is voiced on social media. BUT, the loudest portion certainly is. In no way am I grouping the entire fan base into the social media sector.

We had fans tagging Danny White calling for his job (after only five days) and fans tagging Heupel in demeaning tweets. Fans clamoring his record wasn’t good enough and he can’t recruit. And this dude hasn’t even been hired yet. No one has.

The world appeared to be ending right here on a Tuesday night.

I’ll say this. Heupel wouldn’t have been my first thought either – especially after it’s known White is utilizing the Parker Search Firm to help find the new coach. Why spend all this money to potentially end up with a guy you’ve already hired; a guy you don’t even have to vet?

Well, it’s probably where the program is right now – meaning, it probably wasn’t Danny White’s first thought either.

There’s been reports of multiple coaches passing on interviews or not showing interest after initial talks.

Coaches who have been linked to these reports include: James Franklin, Tony Elliot, Billy Napier, PJ Fleck and others. And can you blame them? As I wrote yesterday, why would a coach want to walk into this mess. A raise might not be worth it.

Let’s say it is Josh Heupel. IF Josh Heupel is the next head football coach at Tennessee, here is what you’re getting.

You’re getting a guy who has gone 28-8 in three seasons at UCF. He led an undefeated regular season in 2018, taking over for Frost, with another 10-win season in 2019. Heupel led a unit that finished second in total offense in 2020 and has ranked top-six nationally in the sector in three seasons as a head coach.

He’s coached a Heisman Trophy winner (Sam Bradford) as an assistant at Oklahoma and spent two seasons as an assistant at Missouri – so he has SEC experience.

Credit: UT Athletics

He was also the Heisman runner-up in 2000 – bowing out to current Vols quarterbacks coach Chris Wienke.

A main concern for me, IF Heupel ends up getting the gig, is recruiting. I know it’s tough to recruit blue chip prospects to Group of Five programs, but Heupel hasn’t finished inside the top-50 in terms of team recruiting rankings while at UCF. His defenses have also been nothing to ride home about.

So, will it be Heupel? Is this a smokescreen? Time will tell and I think it will be soon.

No hire will please everyone. And time will tell down the road if the next hire ends up being a good one. But one thing is for sure – Vol fans on social media will voice their opinions. And it will be some interesting reads to say the least.