What if Josh Heupel left Tennessee football? Whom would readers want as replacement? | Adams

Tennessee football has had three consecutive winning seasons under coach Josh Heupel. But what if he left UT for the NFL or another college job?

I asked my literary contributors to explore that possibility: Whom would they want Tennessee to pursue as his replacement and why?

You will be surprised at some of their suggestions.

Bill writes: Kyle Whittingham, underappreciated and overachieving.

My response: Whittingham has had only two losing seasons in 19 years at Utah, which had a chance for a great season in 2023. But the Utes went 8-5 without injured quarterback Cameron Rising.

Rising will return to Utah in 2024 when it moves to the Big 12.

Shemp writes: Eli Drinkwitz!  No, just kidding.

My response: That’s not as funny as it was after the 2022 season when I thought he was the most overpaid coach in the country. He was the SEC Coach of the Year in 2023.

Glenn writes: Danny White would need to consider Alex Golesh if he continues to do well at South Florida.  He’s young and, like Heupel, has a good offensive mind.  After Pruitt, the Vols don’t need another defensive-minded head coach.

My response: You couldn’t prove Jeremy Pruitt was a defensive-minded coach by the way his defense performed in three seasons at Tennessee.

Chris writes: Replace Heupel with Saban…back up the truck and dump the money. Don’t need to answer why.

My response: Great idea. But don’t dump all the money at Nick Saban’s feet. Save some for Bill Belichick as your defensive coordinator.

Also, Andy Reid might be tired of winning Super Bowls by then. Dump some money at his feet. He could be your offensive coordinator.

Colorado Mark writes: Darth Saban. Give him a 1 year contract for one billion dollars, with a bonus of another billion if he wins the Natty. If Swifty can be a billionaire, then surely Saban should be.

My response: The way you throw around billions of dollars, you should run for President. Imagine how much tickets would cost for a Tennessee spring game if you would pay a coach $1 billion for a national championship.

Vols Mark writes: No idea. But given our past, we’d be better off creating a virtual General Neyland with AI. Who needs human coaches when you’ve got Neyland, 2.0.

My response: My guess is you would win a lot of games with a Neyland, 2.0. But I wonder what would happen with a virtual Butch Jones or Pruitt. Scary thought, huh?

James writes: if Heupel departs, grab Lane Kiffin.  If he had stayed, UT would have won a National Championship by now.

My response: As a bonus, you would get Kiffin’s dog, Juice. In fact, Juice might be superior to some of the coaches Tennessee has hired.

Mike writes: If Heupel left, I am not sure who the Vols would go after, but I know who wants to come back.  Lane Kiffin.

He knows he made a big-time mistake in leaving and he desperately wants to be back in Knoxville.  Of course, he also wants to be back at Southern Cal, but that, too, will never be available to him again.

I still get a big smile on my face every time I think about Kiffin getting pulled off the team bus and being fired there on the tarmac at LAX.  The agony of defeat....

My response: Kiffin got the last laugh, though.

ADAMS: Readers weigh in on Rick Barnes' postseason shortcomings with Tennessee basketball

Ed Orgeron became the interim coach but wasn’t deemed fulltime coaching material for a school as prestigious as USC. So, the Trojans hired Steve Sarkisian, who was fired two years later by then-athletic director Pat Haden after showing up at a practice in “no condition” to lead.

Next, USC hired Clay Helton, who apparently had no trouble leading a practice but struggled on game day.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or Follow him at:

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: If Josh Heupel left Tennessee football, whom would readers want as coach?