Just how fast is Tennessee's new offense? 'I can't compare it to anybody else'

Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Tennessee receiver Cedric Tillman said Wednesday that one responsibility in Josh Heupel's new offense involves getting the ball to a specific official as soon as the play is over.

Ever since Josh Heupel was hired in late January as Tennessee's new football coach, a fast-paced brand of offense has been promised to Volunteers faithful.

Tennessee's season doesn't kick off until Sept. 4 against Bowling Green inside Neyland Stadium, but Vols players are already experiencing life at an incredibly rapid rate, and that goes for both sides of the ball. After all, defenders do have to keep up in order to avoid embarrassment.

"I can't compare it to anybody else," senior safety Trevon Flowers said Wednesday night on a Zoom call. "It's just something our team does by itself. We're different, I guess. After every snap and every play, you're back on the ball.

"We always had periods before where we faced the hurry-up stuff, but this offense is trying to do it every snap. It's more consistent than just working on it during a drill or a period. It's all throughout the whole practice."

Whether Heupel's offenses that lit up scoreboards at UCF the past three seasons can do the same in the Southeastern Conference remains to be seen, but the early foundation blocks are being stacked. Redshirt junior receiver Cedric Tillman said that Heupel, receivers coach Kodi Burns and the rest of the offensive staff is having players who possess the ball to give it to an official as soon as a play is over in order to snap it again as quickly as possible.

It can't be just any official, either, as Tillman recently learned.

"I caught a 40-yard ball the other day, and I'm excited," Tillman said. "As I was getting up, Coach Burns told me, 'Hey you threw the ball to the wrong guy. You're supposed to give it to this guy.' I was like, 'Oh, man.'

"It's just the details. That's what Coach Heupel keeps preaching."

Tillman added that the new staff has implemented an "EATS" slogan, which is short for effort, alignments, toughness and smarts. There are different alignments and different terminology to learn under Heupel and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh, who is Tillman's third offensive coordinator since signing in 2018.

The Vols are through three spring practices and are getting more comfortable each workout, and that's for everyone involved.

"Our offense goes pretty fast, so we have to get lined up quick to be ready to play," Flowers said. "It's just a mindset. Once a play is over, you've got to come right back and be ready to play again. It helps you get better, and if we do it every day in practice, come game time, we'll be ready."

Said junior safety Jaylen McCullough: "This is completely different. You run a play and get back to the ball, and as a defensive guy, we have to know the down and distance and have the proper communication and proper alignment."

McCullough could only describe the drastic change for so long before breaking into a smile.

"I'll just let you guys see on Saturdays," McCullough said. "It's really indescribable. Those guys are hiking the ball and running a play in like three seconds, and then they're back on the ball and ready to go. It's fast.

"You'll see on Saturdays."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.