DALLAS (FWAA) – South Carolina coach
Shane Beamer and Tennessee coach Josh Heupel
are the co-winners of the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach
of the Year Award presented by the Football Writers
Association of America and Chris Doering Mortgage.
Spurrier was known for his innovation as a College Football Hall
of Fame quarterback and coach, so it seems only fitting Spurrier
would get creative in his first year as the namesake for the award.
"Well, there are two coaches this year because they are
both very deserving," Spurrier said. "Preseason, their
teams were picked at the bottom of the league, 12 and 13, but instead
of gloom and doom they took their players and improved every game
and both finished 7-6."
It's the second time the 43-year-old Heupel has won the award,
which began in 2001 but is in its first year being sponsored by
Doering and named after Spurrier.
Heupel, like Spurrier a former All-America quarterback in his
day, was the FWAA First-year Coach of the Year at UCF in 2018.
Tennessee achieved a winning record coming off a 3-7 campaign
that ended with the previous coach fired and the program under the
cloud of an NCAA investigation.
The Vols lost 38 players off the previous team, including seven
former starters to the transfer portal, and Heupel went to work
in a rapid reload circumstance. One of the ways Heupel rebuilt Tennessee
into a winning program was with a lightning-fast offense, that at
times averaged more snaps per minute than any other Power 5 program.
Former Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker helped lead the
way with 2,945 yards passing, 31 touchdowns and just three interceptions
as Tennessee improved its scoring from 21.5 points per game in 2020
to 39.3 this season. The Vols' 6,174 total offensive yards in 2021
are the most in program history, eclipsing the previous mark of
5,794 set by the 1997 team led by Peyton Manning.
Beamer, son of celebrated Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, is
the second South Carolina coach to win the award. Spurrier actually
won the award in 2005 in his first season leading the Gamecocks.
|South Carolina's Shane
Beamer (Icon Sportswire)
|Tennessee's Josh Heupel
Beamer, 44, took over a downtrodden South Carolina team coming
off a 2-8 campaign. The Gamecocks scratched and clawed for each
victory, from the time projected starting quarterback Luke Doty
suffered a foot injury in August. That led Beamer to get creative,
perhaps in the spirit of Spurrier, and use graduate assistant coach
Zeb Noland at the quarterback position. When Noland went down with
an injury, former St. Francis (Pa.) QB Jason Brown took over and
led South Carolina to landmark wins over Florida and Auburn in his
Beamer's quarterback rotation wasn't finished: Dakeron Joyner,
a quarterback in high school who played receiver at South Carolina,
lined up under center in the bowl game against North Carolina. Joyner
won MVP honors as the Gamecocks beat the Tar Heels 38-21 in the
Duke's Mayo Bowl in Charlotte for the program's first bowl win in
South Carolina, notably, became only the second program in history
to win games with four different quarterbacks in one season (Utah
Spurrier was impressed with Tennessee's explosive offense all
season and then was among the first to congratulate Beamer after
the bowl win.
"It's extremely important for coaches in their first year
that they come in with no excuses," Spurrier said. "They
don't say give me two or three years, they eliminate excuses, they
take the team they got and add to it the best way they can, and
they go and compete."
That's what Spurrier did at all three Power 5 programs he led
in his career. Spurrier began his college head coaching career at
Duke in 1987, where he had previously served as offensive coordinator
The Blue Devils improved from 4-7 to 5-6 in his first season,
and by the time Spurrier left Durham in 1989 he led his team to
an ACC co-championship.
Spurrier's turnaround at Florida was immediate in 1990, as he
took a Gators' bunch that was 7-5 in 1989 to a 9-2 season and a
finish atop the SEC in his first year. Spurrier led his alma mater
for the next 11 years, winning six SEC championships and the 1996
national championship. He was also a five-time winner of SEC Coach
of the Year during that time span.
After a brief stint in the NFL, Spurrier took over South Carolina
in 2005 and led the Gamecocks to a 7-5 season that included wins
over Florida and Tennessee in the same season for the first time
in program history.
"It's an honor and a privilege to sponsor the naming of
the First-Year Coach Award for Coach Spurrier," said Doering,
former player for Spurrier in both college and the NFL and currently
a football analyst for SEC Network. "He was successful as a
first-year coach at three different programs and he took great pride
in each, assuming the reigns, immediately creating a culture that
staff and athletes want to be a part of and achieving success in
those efforts, that’s the very definition of this award."
A trophy presentation and reception will be held at Spurrier’s
Gridiron Grille on Monday, Feb. 21.
ALL-TIME FWAA FIRST-YEAR COACHES OF THE YEAR
|2002 Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame
||2012 Urban Meyer, Ohio State
|2003 Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa
||2013 Gus Malzahn, Auburn
|2004 Mike Price, UTEP
||2014 Bryan Harsin, Boise State
|2005 Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
||2015 Tom Herman, Houston
|2006 Chris Petersen, Boise State
||2016 Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech;
Clay Helton, USC
|2007 Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College
||2017 Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
|2008 Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
||2018 Josh Heupel, UCF
|2009 Chip Kelly, Oregon
||2019 Ryan Day, Ohio State
|2010 Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
||2020 Karl Dorrell, Colorado
|2011 Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
||2021 Shane Beamer, South Carolina;
Josh Heupel, Tennessee
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