Whenever an SEC rival is wounded, that’s when you strike. You should never wish a firing upon anybody, but you have to take advantage when it happens. Tennessee football is in that position right now, and they must move correctly to seize that opportunity.
The Auburn Tigers fired Bryan Harsin Monday. Harsin was a hot commodity after getting Auburn to 6-2 last year and looked like the best coaching hire for 2021, way better than even Heupel. However, he flamed out, losing the final five of that year and stumbling to 3-5 this year, currently on a four-game losing streak.
There were off-the-field issues too, and it was clear that Auburn wanted him gone. However, by making this move now, Auburn has better positioned itself to become more relevant in the near future if they make the right hire. Tennessee football needs to pounce before that happens.
This is irrelevant to the Vols’ current situation. What Auburn does has no bearing on whether or not they reach the College Football Playoff. However, as Heupel continues to build his program, his best friend in recruiting is other SEC schools being down.
With Harsin gone, Auburn will inevitable be down this year and next year. That means Heupel and the Vols could eliminate one major recruiting competition at least through 2024. It’s necessary that they do that in case Auburn comes back strong.
Imagine if Lane Kiffin, Hugh Freeze or Deion Sanders takes over there. Any of those coaches could put Auburn back on the map in a hurry, albeit with likely a barrage of scandals under Freeze. That means for Heupel to make his program a staple of relevancy he has to strike now.
Chain reactions are a funny thing in college football. If you pounce when your recruiting rivals are weak, you can load up on talent to build credibility. By the time those rivals catch up, your head coach has more credibility to be able to continue recruiting.
Think about Phillip Fulmer in the 1990s. He cashed in on the Georgia Bulldogs faltering as a program under Ray Goff, which resulted in his No. 1 class in 1994. That set the stage for the run he had of the mid-90s, one that continued when Jim Donnan took over UGA, as he was able to go in and poach Georgia talent.
Over in the ACC, Dabo Swinney cashed in on the league being way down. Sure, the Florida State Seminoles were dominant in the early part of the decade, but nobody else was relevant. Swinney used that to his advantage, raiding area states and even the state of Tennessee with Tennessee football down to build up his recruiting classes.
That resulted in increased credibility for him and eventually two national championships in three years. Coaches build credibility by pouncing when they can, and once they do that, their credibility remains a fixture, so it helps them in recruiting even when other schools catch up.
Right now, Tennessee football and Heupel need to do that with Auburn. The program is in a down spot, and the Vols are riding high. This is the. best chance for them to poach any Auburn commitment and get any kid who is considering the Vols or Auburn.