Vols’ Heupel still has an offensive staff vacancy to fill

AP photo by Lynne Sladky / Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel, left, greets running back Jaylen Wright before Friday night's Orange Bowl matchup against Clemson in Miami Gardens, Fla.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Tennessee Volunteers had a different dynamic in Friday night's Orange Bowl against Clemson, and it wasn't just due to them playing without quarterback Hendon Hooker and receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman for the first time as a trio.

The Vols conducted their first game of the Josh Heupel era without offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Alex Golesh, who is South Florida's new head coach.

Heupel was not expecting any obstacles on that front given his lengthy backgrounds with quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle and line coach Glen Elarbee, with Halzle inheriting a lot of Golesh's duties Friday from the coaching booth.

"As a staff, we go through a process every single week, and we go through it on game day," Heupel said. "Joey and I have been together for 15-plus years, and Glen and I have been together I think for seven years, so the communication on game day is seamless."

Halzle described Tennessee's play calling as "extremely communal," adding that somebody would end up making the call but that it always has to go through Heupel. The biggest change Halzle has experienced occurred in the days leading up to Friday's kickoff.

"We lost a lot of support staff as well, guys who went with Coach Golesh to get their first coaching opportunities, and we're really happy for those guys, too," Halzle said. "There was stuff you don't even think about, like who's printing the scripts? Everyone just kind of grabbed on and did what they could to help.

"I've had to take on quite a bit more with actual preparation of the call sheet and everything that Coach Golesh would do with Coach Heupel."

Given their familiarity, Heupel could promote Halzle to offensive coordinator in the days ahead, but Heupel wanted to wait before making any immediate move.

"With everything that goes on inside of college football after the regular season finishes -- we will handle all that at the tight end position here on the back end of this bowl game," Heupel said.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.