Unlikely SEC Football Coach to be on the Hot Seat for 2025

Billy Napier, Shane Beamer and Clark Lea may be the first names that come to mind for hot seat in 2024 and beyond. In this article, I give a name and reasoning why there is another name folks should get ready to have conversations about; Josh Heupel.

Samford v Florida
Samford v Florida / James Gilbert/GettyImages

Billy Napier, Shane Beamer and Clark Lea are a few names you may not be surprised to see as on the hot seat in 2024 and beyond as far as SEC coaches. A name you may not find synonymous with SEC coaches on the hot seat is Tennessee Volunteers head coach, Josh Heupel.

While Heupel led the Vols to an 11-2 record with quarterback, Hendon Hooker at the controls, the team regressed with Joe Milton behind center in 2023. And regression at each of his head coaching stints has been a trend of Heupel’s so far.

Here is Josh Heupel’s History as a Head Coach and why the Hot Seat in 2025 should not be a Surprise

UCF Knights (2018-2020)

During his time with the Knights, Heupel turned a 13-0 team in 2017 the year before he arrived into a 6-4 team by the end of 2020. Looking further into his time with the Knights, the team regressed each year.

The Knights were 12-1 in 2018, 10-3 in 2019 and 6-4 in 2020. This regression is not really noticed, as the first two seasons were 10 or more wins for Heupel. However, what should be questioned is just that- the regression.

Heupel had the luxury of having quarterback, McKenzie Milton at the controls for most of the 2018 season before a season-ending injury. Milton was the same quarterback that led the 2017 team to an undefeated season which included a win over the Auburn Tigers in the Peach Bowl.

During the 2017 season, Milton threw for 4,037 yards in 13 games, and another 2,663 yards through 10 games before his injury in 2018.

That is the problem for Heupel. After the injury of Milton which forced him to sit out the entire 2019 season, the slow regression began.

Heupel ended up starting a true freshman quarterback in Dillon Gabriel who actually had a great season throwing 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. In 2020, Gabriel had an even better season throwing for 32 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

Despite these numbers, Heupel’s lack of attention to defense cost the Knights as they allowed 492 yard per game in 2020.

Heupel then exited the stage and followed former UCF athletic director, Danny White to Knoxville as head coach of the Volunteers.

Tennessee Volunteers (2021-Present)

Heupel’s combined record so far in Knoxville is 27-12. This is much better than the four coaches that came before Heupel and after legendary head coach, Phillip Fulmer.

However, it is worth pointing out that after an 11-2 season in year two, the Vols regressed as mentioned under Heupel and sixth year senior, Joe Milton at quarterback.

After losing nearly their entire starting secondary to the transfer portal and NFL, Heupel could see difficulty again on the defensive side of the ball, which is the same thing that reared its head during his time in Orlando as coach of the Knights.

Vols fans have expectations that are not on parallel with that of UCF, and it is at least nine or 10 wins in year four you would figure Heupel would have to get to which would allow him to maintain maximum job security. Anything less could spell trouble.

And Heupel again will be relying on a young quarterback to get things going on offense in redshirt freshman and former five-star recruit, Nico Iamaleava.

Josh Heupel has had Good Luck Inheriting Quarterbacks

At each school, it is worth noting that Heupel inherited quarterbacks Hendon Hooker and McKenzie Milton.

Milton was already on campus with the Knights. Albeit so was Heupel as offensive coordinator, but not head coach. That accolade went to Scott Frost who vacated the position for the job with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2018.

Hooker actually began his career at Virginia Tech, spending his first three seasons in Blacksburg. Hooker also committed to transfer to the Vols a few weeks before Heupel was hired.

So although both quarterbacks ended up working out, the counter argument is finding one that inarguably so far has come in and started in college initially with Heupel as their head coach. That has yet to happen.

So while 2024 may not seem like a year that would much matter for the Vols and Heupel’s job security, it is more put up or shut up than one may think. And the history of regression is not in favor for Heupel.