Tennessee looks to mount a challenge to Georgia in the SEC East Division in 2022 despite being charged with 18 Level I violations. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)
HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Tennessee football sees 18 major violations as ‘speed bump’ entering 2022

ATHENS — Tennessee faces an eye-opening 18 Level I violations, but the Vols have no plans of letting that slow them down.

UT coach Josh Heupel called the NCAA case a “speed bump” as the Vols race into the 2022 season looking to mount a challenge in the SEC East Division.

RELATED: Vols served up 18 violations, including McDonald’s stop

Reigning national champion Georgia has a strong veteran offense and talented reloaded defense and is expected to repeat in the East.

But Heupel and Tennessee have a great amount of momentum, even after the NCAA revealed how serious the infractions were against the Knoxville school.

The Vols now await learning what infractions they might face as a result of the actions of the previous coaching staff.

Heupel, however, did not sound concerned, per the KnoxNews.com report.

“It’s really just a speed bump,” Heupel said in the KnoxNews.com story. “I think we’ve positioned ourselves extremely well and we can start to compete for championships as we move forward.”

To be clear, the NCAA refers to Level I violations as the most serious of the four levels, referring to them as: “violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws.”

To Tennessee’s credit, it was very aggressive in investigating and self-reporting the violations that occurred under the watch of former coach Jeremy Pruitt.

UT self-sanctioned itself by cutting 12 scholarships in 2021, per the report, and is expected to “trim a few more this season,” per Knox News.

It’s possible Tennessee could vacate some of its wins from the Pruitt era, and there remains a chance the Vols could face a bowl ban this season.

That said, Tennessee has hopes that a new NCAA constitution that goes into effect this week will spare them the plight of missing the postseason.

The NCAA is taking a director whereby current coaches and players who weren’t part of the previous violations aren’t as likely to be punished.

The Tennessee team, meanwhile, looks to be even faster and more efficient than last season, Heupel said.

“We can be a lot more efficient and play quicker, faster when we want to,” Heupel told 1010 XL at SEC Media Days. “Guys are in a year in the system, so we can operate better.”

Tennessee’s jump from three to seven wins was particularly impressive when one considers the program lost 44 players after Pruitt’s exit.

“There was a huge amount of growth that had to take place for us to do what we did,” Heupel said. “The buy-in was extremely critical.

“A year ago at this time no one understood the growth we had gone through. Our ability to not pay attention to outside noise was instrumental in our success.”

It would seem Tennessee’s ability to ignore the potential distraction of the pending NCAA sanctions will be just as important for the Vols to mount a challenge in the East.

That’s why for now, at least, Heupel is calling 18 major violations a “speed bump.”

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