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Tennessee Athletics photo by Caleb Jones / Tennessee second-year football coach Josh Heupel said Sunday that he and his assistants have been transparent from the start with recruits about NCAA violations that transpired under predecessor Jeremy Pruitt, which Heupel believes has built a trust with them.

Tennessee second-year football coach Josh Heupel has referred to the NCAA quagmire created by predecessor Jeremy Pruitt as a "speed bump" since arriving in Knoxville 18 months ago.

That hasn't changed with the NCAA's notice of allegations July 22 that revealed 18 Level I violations.

"There has been so much dialogue and communication between our administration and the NCAA, and also just to us and where we're at," Heupel said Sunday afternoon during a news conference to preview Monday morning's start to preseason camp. "Some of the things that hit publicly are some things that we haven't been able to talk about but we knew was coming. We've been very transparent and open with our current roster and our recruits, and it's why I think we've positioned ourselves extremely well.

"You look at the NCAA talking about us being a model of how to move forward for universities when they're dealing with something, and that's why from the very beginning I've said that it's a speed bump for this program."

Heupel praised the efforts of Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman and athletic director Danny White "to where we can swallow things up here early and be able to move and compete for championships as we move forward." The university is not expected to challenge the NCAA's findings and could be facing a loss of scholarships and vacating victories from the Pruitt era, which yielded a 16-19 record highlighted by a Gator Bowl trip after the 2019 season.

The biggest punishment could target Pruitt in the form of a lengthy show-cause penalty.

Amid the NCAA uncertainty, the Volunteers landed the nation's No. 18 class in the 2022 signing cycle, whiffing on each of the Volunteer State's top-10 prospects. They are 11th in the 2023 cycle, having received commitments from five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava of California, four-star edge rusher Chandavian Bradley of Missouri and four-star edge rusher Caleb Herring of Murfreesboro, the top in-state recruit.

"We've been very transparent with the two recruiting classes we've been involved with," Heupel said. "Because of that, I think there is great trust from them."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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