Amid a college football carousel that has contained Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma for Southern California and Brian Kelly bolting Notre Dame for LSU, the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers insists he's quite happy in Knoxville.
Josh Heupel, who inherited a mess in January but concluded a 7-5 debut regular season with this past Saturday's 45-21 thumping of Vanderbilt in Neyland Stadium, is a former Oklahoma quarterback and offensive assistant. On Tuesday morning, he was asked about the Sooners vacancy on "The Erik Ainge Show" on Knoxville's 99.1 FM.
"We love being in Knoxville. That's home for us," Heupel said. "I love being in the building with our staff and our players, and I feel stronger today than I did 10 months ago — when I first took the job — about what we're going to be able to do and how quickly we're going to be able to get there. I know we're building a championship caliber football team and program, and I'm excited to continue on that venture with our current players and staff.
"We absolutely love Tennessee and believe in what we're building here."
The Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel reported Monday afternoon that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, South Carolina first-year coach Shane Beamer and Carolina Panthers second-year coach Matt Rhule had emerged as the early candidates to replace Riley. Venables and Beamer are former Oklahoma assistants, while Rhule coached Baylor University to the 2019 Big 12 championship game, where they lost to the Sooners in overtime.
Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who fired Heupel after the 2014 season, will coach the Sooners in their bowl game.
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