Every now and then, a team experiences a drastic turnaround in Year 1 under a new head coach. More than not, however, the word “rebuild” is attached to the era under a fired coach’s successor. After the firing of Jeremy Pruitt, it’s the Josh Heupel era on Rocky Top. ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy warned Tennessee fans not to expect much from the Volunteers in Year 1 of the Heupel era.

“Josh Heupel steps into what is an impossible situation,” McElroy said on College Football Live, per 247Sports. “Tennessee, right now, they still have expectations. Their fan base has expectations. They think it’s still 1998, and Tee Martin and Peyton Manning are walking through that door.

“It’s not the case. They also had a bunch of guys leave through the transfer portal. They’re going to be well under the 85 scholarship limit, so their depth is going to be challenged. They still have to figure out who their quarterback is going to be. Their defense is porous, and that’s putting it nicely. At this point, Josh Heupel is stepping into an impossible situation. If he can somehow get the Volunteers to bowl eligibility, that would be one heck of an accomplishment in Year One.”

Tennessee received a bowl bid last season despite going 3-7 as eligibility requirements were waived due to the 2020 season circumstances. The Volunteers had to pull out of the Liberty Bowl, though, due to COVID cases on the team.