Here is the CliffsNotes version of new Tennessee quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle's life — infant years, toddler years, grade-school years, teenage years and Josh Heupel years.
Halzle has known the new head coach of the Volunteers since 2006, when Heupel was in his first season as Oklahoma's quarterbacks coach and Halzle had just transferred to the Sooners out of Golden West (California) Junior College. They have resided in countless meeting rooms, on multiple practice fields and inside various stadiums since, and Halzle doesn't expect that to change despite Heupel taking over a Southeastern Conference program for the first time.
"His favorite thing to do is coach quarterbacks, and he trusts me because we've been together," Halzle (pronounced HALLS-lee) said on a recent Zoom call. "We've been in the same meeting room for 13 years. He knows that we value the same thing in a quarterback and how the offense is instructed and taught. He can trust that I'll be an extension of his voice in that meeting room.
"He's still going to show up, because he can't help himself. He loves going into that quarterback meeting room. He's got a lot more responsibilities than he used to, but he'll never take his hand fully out of that quarterback room."
Halzle played in 21 career games for the Sooners during the 2006-08 seasons, completing 53 of 83 passes (63.9%) for 640 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He never landed the starting role, losing out to Paul Thompson in 2006 and to Sam Bradford the next two seasons, but Halzle said that Heupel was very fair during those competitions and that Tennessee fans can expect the same in upcoming months when Harrison Bailey, Hendon Hooker, Brian Maurer and Kaidon Salter vie for the job.
There certainly wasn't any shame in Halzle losing out to Bradford, who won the 2008 Heisman Trophy as a redshirt sophomore and led the Sooners to that season's BCS championship game in Miami Gardens, where they lost to Florida 24-14. Bradford returned to Oklahoma for what would become an injury-riddled 2009 season, which also marked the first of Halzle's three seasons in Norman as an offensive quality control assistant.
Heupel earned the added role of Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinator from 2011-14, and Halzle was an offensive graduate assistant for the last three of those years. When Heupel was the offensive coordinator at Utah State in 2015 and at Missouri in 2016-17, he took Halzle along for the ride.
"Joey and I have been together the last 13 years on the coaching side of it," Heupel said. "He played for me at Oklahoma and was in a room with a Heisman Trophy winner in Sam Bradford. He's been a part of high-level development of the quarterback position, from Landry Jones, who I think finished fourth in the history of college football in passing yards when he finished at Oklahoma, to the development of Drew Lock at Missouri, a second-round draft pick.
"Look at what he's done with Dillon Gabriel at UCF, who was leading the country in passing at one point this past year. He understands the game, and he does a great job of teaching it."
Though tight ends coach Alex Golesh is Tennessee's new offensive coordinator, Heupel will call the plays. Golesh and Halzle spent this past season at UCF, where Heupel was in his third season as head coach.
Halzle ranks decision-making as the most important attribute for a quarterback, followed by accuracy and mobility, adding, "If you can get out of the pocket, that's an absolute plus, but the first two are big time."
Bailiey and Maurer will enter spring practice with no secrets, because Halzle said that he already has watched all of their throws during their respective Tennessee tenures. Given that early depth of dedication, it's likely Halzle has studied plenty of Hooker from his time at Virginia Tech, as well as whatever Cedar Hill (Texas) High School footage of Salter that he could find.
"We have a bunch of talent here," Halzle said. "There are guys who have played a lot of football, and that's a good thing. There are guys who can rip it all over the field, and we're going to let them rip it all over the field.
"We're going to put a lot on you. We're not going to hold your hand. We're going to teach you. We're going to mold you into the best that you can be, and we're going to turn you loose to play ball on Saturdays."
Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman appeared on "Vol Calls" Monday night and said the investigation into the football program that already has uncovered multiple NCAA Level I and Level II violations under former coach Jeremy Pruitt should be concluded by the end of March. Plowman added, however, that learning potential NCAA sanctions may not occur before the 2021 season kicks off Sept. 4 against Bowling Green inside Neyland Stadium.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.