Danny White, the new athletic director at Tennessee, didn’t go far to find the next Vols head coach. He hired Josh Heupel for the second time in just a few years, after bringing him on board at UCF, where he served as AD from 2015 until earlier this month. If Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel’s reaction is any indication, UFC football is going to have a serious chip on its shoulder this fall.
Gabriel, who emerged as a star under Heupel in recent years, was not happy when he was somewhat suddenly named the head coach at Tennessee. “Lol… No goodbye?” Gabriel wrote on an Instagram story post that would later be deleted. “Not even a phone call? Crazyyyy.”
It is no surprise when a Group of Five head coach, even one at a job as good as UCF, leaves for the SEC. Heupel isn’t the first to do it without giving his players any head’s up, but it is bad form in any case, especially compared to the last Knights coach to leave. Scott Frost accepted the job at Nebraska, but was pretty all-in on guiding UCF to an undefeated season, beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl after taking the job at his alma mater. Obviously there was no game for Heupel to coach here, but a call with the players is probably not too much to ask.
A few days later, and it doesn’t look like Gabriel is any less annoyed. He sent a not-so-cryptic tweet on Friday, and while he doesn’t address Heupel or the situation directly, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out what he’s talking about here.
This has been the best two days since I’ve been on campus! UCF is a special place. Tomorrow is gonna be a great day!
— DG (@_dillongabriel_) January 29, 2021
Whomever takes over at UCF is getting a very impressive quarterback in Gabriel. In 2020, he completed a career-high 60-percent of his throws, for 3,570 yards, 32 touchdowns, and four interceptions. In 2019, he threw for 3,653 yards, 29 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, but was actually a bit more efficient, at an impressive 9.2 yards per attempt.
He leads what many consider the highest-ceiling Group of Five program in the sport, and one that should have no issue attracting another solid up-and-coming coach.
Josh Heupel was 28-8 at UCF, leading off with a 12-1 season after taking over for Frost. Things tailed off from there a bit, and the Knights were 6-4 for in 2020.