After a 7-6 season on Rocky Top, Josh Heupel has won the Steve Spurrier first year head coach of the year award for the second time. He previously won the award at UCF. He shares the 2021 honor with Shane Beamer.
The award is presented annually to the best coach in his first year at a school, Heupel shares the accolade with fellow SEC East coach Shane Beamer of South Carolina. Heupel becomes the first two-time recipient of the award. He claimed it in 2018 at UCF after leading the Knights to 12 wins, a Fiesta Bowl berth and a No. 11 final ranking in his first season.
It is the 20th consecutive season that the First-Year Coach Award has been presented, although the first time with a namesake for the award, Spurrier. Former University of Florida player and SEC Network analyst Doering of Chris Doering Mortgage sponsors the award.
"Well there are two coaches this year because they are both very deserving," Spurrier said. "Preseason, their teams were picked next to Vandy at the bottom of the league, 12 and 13, but instead of gloom and doom they took their players and improved every game and both finished 7-6."
Coming off a 3-7 record a year ago, Tennessee was picked to finish fifth in the SEC East standings in Heupel's debut season. However, the Volunteers won three of their final four regular season games, secured third place in the SEC East with a 4-4 mark and posted seven victories to secure a bowl berth while playing one of college football's toughest schedules. UT was one of only four squads to face both College Football Playoff title game participants.
The 27th head coach in Tennessee history, Heupel is one of only five Vol head coaches in the last 80 years to win seven or more games in his first season. UT shattered eight single-season team records under his watch, including points (511), total offensive yards (6,174), touchdowns (67), point after touchdowns made (67), total first downs (316), rushing first downs (164), fewest interceptions thrown (3) and passing efficiency (167.10).