Mike Strange: Tennessee needed a fresh start and Butch Jones gives them one

Mike Strange
Butch Jones addresses members of the media as the University of Tennessee introduced him as the new head football coach during a press conference in the Peyton Manning Locker Room at Neyland Stadium, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Butch Jones addresses members of the media as the University of Tennessee introduced him as the new head football coach during a press conference in the Peyton Manning Locker Room at Neyland Stadium, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Butch Jones introduced as the new head coach of the UT football team

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It's time to quit belaboring the troubled past. Tennessee football needs to move on.

I don't know how many times I heard athletic director Dave Hart offer those words in interviews or to civic clubs

He was saying it even before Derek Dooley extended the troubled past with another five-win season and then became part of it.

Now, Tennessee can move on. It has a face to lead the march into a brighter future.

That's what a coaching change does for you. It buys a fresh start.

The price isn't cheap, but sometimes it's necessary.

Whether Butch Jones is the right guy to get Tennessee back to competing for SEC titles, we won't know for a while. But the beauty of a fresh start is it's, well, fresh.

I haven't heard a peep in the past two weeks about getting spanked by Vanderbilt or, for shame, falling short of even the BBVA Compass Bowl.

The undivided focus is going forward. Anything is possible again.

Tennessee football is being reborn. The new leader is in place. Next up, building a new staff. Then recruiting new players.

Today is Jones' fourth day on the job. I'd judge his first as a success. He was energetic and engaging in a whirlwind Friday, despite sleep deprivation after all-night negotiations.

Sure, he served up the coach-speak cliches at his introductory media conference. Tennessee was his dream job. He'll hire the best coaching staff in America. But that's all to be expected.

UT insiders were impressed when he agreed to be wired for sound and videotaped from the moment he hit campus.

"You don't realize what you have here,'' he told his new team behind closed doors. "You are the best of the best.''

And this ...

"The program we have is infallible, if you allow it to work.''

Infallible is a strong word. We'll see how it holds up in the rigors of the SEC.

But it worked at Central Michigan and again at Cincinnati. That's a better track record than the past couple of UT football hires.

Hart, taking his most critical at-bat as AD, wanted proven success. That was obvious in the list of candidates he courted.

"Has he been able to win everywhere he's been?'' said Hart. "Has he been able to rebuild?

"Has he been able to take talent that was there and expound on the success of that talent?"

Relationships mattered, too. Hart talked to players Jones had coached. Did he care? He did. Did he connect with them? He did.

"It was a very consistent theme,'' Hart said.

Another consistent theme: Jones wanted to be Tennessee's coach in the worst way. No arm-twisting required.

That there are issues particular to this time and place in UT history didn't deter him. Nor did the savagery of the SEC.

"He was,'' said Hart, "extraordinarily prepared for what turned out to be a lengthy discussion.''

The discussion is over. The action has begun. Jones has hit the ground running as the new face of Tennessee football, leaving a good first impression.

"The press conference fades quickly,'' Hart said. "It's success on the field.''

And that test will come soon enough, in far-flung, difficult places like Oregon and Gainesville and in Neyland Stadium. For the moment, though, the troubled past is past.

Tennessee football has a fresh start. It needed one.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 94

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Good read, UT definitely needed a fresh start to forget narrow losses like the LSU game and the MCB against UNC. Time to move forward and implement a winning attitude to go with a winning system..GBO!

redskinvol1 writes:

A fresh top ten class would be nice!!

td writes:

Coach Jones made a positive impression in his first meeting with team on Friday. The fact that Vols on the Team now who were recruited by CBJ to attend Cincinnati seemed to embrace him as their new coach spoke volumes. I hope he can live up to his claim about the "best staff" in America. The first real measure of progress will be on National Signing Day. Can Coach Jones and his staff improve on the Vols current #24 ranking by Rivals.

thevoice writes:

The take-home:

"Jones wanted to be Tennessee's coach in the worst way. No arm-twisting required."

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Anyone who knows anything about the past history of our football program knows we have a tough time ahead. Don't be too quick to judge our new coach on the first or secong year results. It takes a long time to resurrect a sinking ship but I believe this guy has what it takes to get the job done. As my Ohio license plates says, "GO VOLS".

movol53 writes:

A fresh start is great however, we all know too well that the SEC is not a forgiving place. Next years schedule is probably one of the top five most difficult in the nation. If Coach Butch can win the ones he is suppose to and give us an upset or two then I think he is on the right track. One big question is will the major players of or offense be back or not. If not Coach Butch will certainly have a little deeper hole to work himself out of. Hopefully, he can assemble a great staff at least from his point of view, which really, is the only one that matters. Hire people that can coach'm up and then get out of their way. That's what great managers do. It's great that he's coming in with his system, the way he wants things done and that he and the coaches that come with him also believe in his system. And lastly, I like it that he looks like he could suit up and kick some - - - himself. I think the laughing on the sidelines has come to a halt.

wycoller writes:

in response to thevoice:

The take-home:

"Jones wanted to be Tennessee's coach in the worst way. No arm-twisting required."

Born to be orange.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

All I would say is Coach please recruit kids that are 3 star and above. I saw the Cincy 2013 recruiting list and indeed understand that class might work in the Big East and at Cincy, but not in the SEC. Some how I think you already know this.

OldVols68 writes:

"Another consistent theme: Jones wanted to be Tennessee's coach in the worst way. No arm-twisting required."

The above statement is why in the end Jones is a better hire than Gruden or Strong. Obviously Gruden was a bad idea from the git-go: he does not want to coach on the college level. Strong did what more coaches should do: be loyal to a school that gave you a chance.

I hope Jones works out: he definitely started off on a better note than Doofus did: I can only remember him talking about the "process" as if the job was similar to being in a law office, which is where his future better be (it sure won't be as a football coach on a major school level).

That said Jones likely will take a couple of years, especially to build a defense. For the first time in my short life:) I envy Vanderbilt's defense compared to Tennessee's. That my friends, is not a good feeling. Especially when we got blown out by them by 23 freaking points.

wazzya69vol writes:

Hope the excitement grows and have big turn out for O&W game. That will be our first good look at his schemes, and what new coaches put in place. Looking forward to see coaches he brings, followed by NSD. Then Spring game and Fall around the corner, but what a schedule. Good luck CBJ. I'm proud to be a VOL and ready for new beginning. VFL, Wazzy

thevoice writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

All I would say is Coach please recruit kids that are 3 star and above. I saw the Cincy 2013 recruiting list and indeed understand that class might work in the Big East and at Cincy, but not in the SEC. Some how I think you already know this.

That should explain why we beat 'em a couple years ago.

TheStupidPolice writes:

My thinking on Butch Jones so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG7LHS...

pms151 writes:

Good solid appraisal. Finally something about football that matches your booming baritone!

10SE writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

My thinking on Butch Jones so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG7LHS...

You are pretty stupid. Could you please tell me who you would have hired?

FLORIDAGATORHATER writes:

Next year we have a tough schedule. But with the right coaching I believe we have the talent to surprise a couple of teams. In my view, if Jones makes the right moves, we have a chance to beat South Carolina, Georgia, and Vanderbilt. South Carolina loses a lot of key players, as does Georgia. Vanderbilt will be without their running back, quarterback, and possibly their best receiver, and we play them at home. There is a decent chance we win two of these three games. I believe we are solid at quarterback, with or without Bray. Our offensive line and RBs will be even better next year. We have some young WRs who I believe can get the job done with short passes and quick-hitters, which are things Chaney didn't focus on enough in my opinion. I think our lack of a tight end could hurt us, however. While we will probably lose to Oregon, Bama, and Florida, I still believe Jones can put together a respectable year. I believe the players will play for him. This is not a Dooley hire. This man is a football coach.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

My thinking on Butch Jones so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG7LHS...

Well, take "The" off of your name and that about sums it up.

tvol71 writes:

Just checked - Cincinnati's scoring defense was #12 this year, #20 last year. If he can bring that to UT, and keep the good offense, they will do well, but I think we have to give him a year to get this years mess cleaned up.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

My thinking on Butch Jones so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG7LHS...

you need to police yourself cause you are stupid

atnvol#283282 writes:

Sounding more and more like Tee Martin is coming home....I sure hope so....USC's #1 recruiter now and Tee coached his first Fred Biletnikoff winner this year...and maybe he could bring back Jalen....the #1 recruit in the State that committed to USC back in July.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Good read, UT definitely needed a fresh start to forget narrow losses like the LSU game and the MCB against UNC. Time to move forward and implement a winning attitude to go with a winning system..GBO!

And Missouri and South Carolina and Georgia and Mississippi St

orange_eVOLution writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

All I would say is Coach please recruit kids that are 3 star and above. I saw the Cincy 2013 recruiting list and indeed understand that class might work in the Big East and at Cincy, but not in the SEC. Some how I think you already know this.

Recruiting for Tennessee with our SEC affiliation, superior facilities, gigantic Stadium, and awesome fan support will blow away the what they could do at Cincinnati. He was still a solid winning coach with the recruits they landed.

golfman1975 writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

All I would say is Coach please recruit kids that are 3 star and above. I saw the Cincy 2013 recruiting list and indeed understand that class might work in the Big East and at Cincy, but not in the SEC. Some how I think you already know this.

It is hard to evaluate and compare recruiting in Cincy vs recruiting to UT. If you do you are making a big mistake.

pcshowtime writes:

I really like butch jones I hope this works. Tuberville wanted this job.Jimmy Hyams said on the radio on fri in birmingham AL jox radio. said that Tubbervile told Tennessee "I have a winning record against nick saban and I can beat him again" here is the link.
http://www.joxfm.com/Article.asp?id=2...
Tommy tubbs stats
Undefeated season, won the sec west 5 out of the ten years he coached. I do not believe there is no big bama hart conspiracy but he has sec experience and he wanted the job. I hope there was a good reason he did not get offered the job.

asleep#212036 writes:

I loved his assessment of recruiting, calling it a sales job and a people business. I think he gets it. He said it is about relationships and he's right. Getting Tee Martin would be huge as would picking up a couple of Chizik's recruiters from Auburn (Thigpen and Martinez). Say what you will about the Won-Loss record at Auburn but they have 3 Top Ten Rivals classes waiting for Malzahn. If he gets the players he will win, everything in his history says so. Let's hope he can start winning the recruiting battles for us again. Go VoLS!!

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

impressed so far i do question why he would want Tee Martin on his staff or any Auburn staffers on board.Hopefully we can keep all players in place

shorttail writes:

NEED DT'S AND SAFTIES, --- NOW

TheStupidPolice writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

I really like butch jones I hope this works. Tuberville wanted this job.Jimmy Hyams said on the radio on fri in birmingham AL jox radio. said that Tubbervile told Tennessee "I have a winning record against nick saban and I can beat him again" here is the link.
http://www.joxfm.com/Article.asp?id=2...
Tommy tubbs stats
Undefeated season, won the sec west 5 out of the ten years he coached. I do not believe there is no big bama hart conspiracy but he has sec experience and he wanted the job. I hope there was a good reason he did not get offered the job.

According to Hyams, Bielema let UT know he was interested and Hart decided he didn't have enough ties to the South. Jones and Hart must have had one helluva good conversation during their late night interview session at the Lexington Waffle House. SMH

runninbroke writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

impressed so far i do question why he would want Tee Martin on his staff or any Auburn staffers on board.Hopefully we can keep all players in place

Uh, Tee Martin is a Tennessee hero and won a national title for us... ALso, recruiting services rank him in the top 25 in collegiate football. A true up and coming coach.. Thats probably why we want him! Just sayin... If Jones can get TEE here then I'm totally on board (course I am anyway)

carbonzip writes:

Please, get a reliable field goal kicker.

TheStupidPolice writes:

Butch needs to start recruiting that kid in the Cam Newton Play 60 commercial.

jack4444 writes:

Brutal schedule but alot of veteran linemen on both sides of the ball. They buy in and there's a chance for a winning record.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

congratulations to Jones

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to carbonzip:

Please, get a reliable field goal kicker.

Hire a GOOD kicking coach.

snowvol writes:

I also would like to see a concerted effort to bond the team with the student section. This is common at so many major programs around then nation... but not UT. You only see it on the road when the Vols win.

It may seem like a small thing, but after every home game why shouldn't the players go en masse to the student section and the band... stand there, helmets up, for the alma mater, Rocky Top... It won't win games, it won't win recruits. But it will enhance and cement a division that often exists between a football team and a student body.

When I've been at games on the road, I've always appreciated that moment at the end of games. It's cool, it enhances the family of the university...

UT and Coach Jones should do this as well.

123forVOLS writes:

Anticipation is up, expectations should be realistic. But for heaven's sake, don't judge him on the first recruiting class. We should easily break into the top 20 or even 15. It will take at least a couple of years and on field progress to sniff the top 10, in my opinion. It is exciting to have a new start. Let the Nega-Vols Negat. on. Those of us who truly love the Orange and White will be supporting the team and coaching staff. GO BIG ORANGE!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

And Missouri and South Carolina and Georgia and Mississippi St

No doubt. every time I'd look at CDD he seemed to be in a daze. I immediately thought about those close games he couldn't manage in the 4th QTR.

VOL75ga writes:

The emphasis used to be find coaches that could develop a good program, get good players and hope only a couple of years would pass before the team could consistently win. When Dooley came to UT he had to put together coaches at just about every position because he didn’t have many to bring from his previous school that could coach in an upper level program like the SEC is. His assists weren’t loyal to him and it showed after the second year. Coach Jones is bringing in some staff that already knows his system and what he is about. Dooley had to start by getting players to build a team on and this took a couple of years. Season three was Dooley’s downfall, he proved he couldn’t coach. Coach Jones and staff will have an offense that is proven and a defence that can be taught how to play. Dooley had a better than expected first year, a slump the second year and a disastrous third year. This new Tennessee coaching staff will have a good first year because for the most part they know each other. Each year after will be successful and what we as Tennessee fans and Alumni have come to know. The future depends more on the players and how they respond. They are all capable and have proven they can play. Now it is tome for all to come together. Go Vols.

SavTnVol writes:

Very good positive post. A hell-u-a-lot better that one of your previous ones. Keep writting like this and I will start enjoying your writings. Not a POSSOB on this article. Good Job IMO. Thanks...GBO

ashvol7 writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

I really like butch jones I hope this works. Tuberville wanted this job.Jimmy Hyams said on the radio on fri in birmingham AL jox radio. said that Tubbervile told Tennessee "I have a winning record against nick saban and I can beat him again" here is the link.
http://www.joxfm.com/Article.asp?id=2...
Tommy tubbs stats
Undefeated season, won the sec west 5 out of the ten years he coached. I do not believe there is no big bama hart conspiracy but he has sec experience and he wanted the job. I hope there was a good reason he did not get offered the job.

He would never fit in at UT, he doesn't have the fire in him that coach Jones seems to have. Never liked him, his slapping the grad student coach didn't help him much. Hiring him would be like taking Fulmer back and everyone knows that would never work. I am going to back coach Jones until he proves me wrong. If he gets the right people around him, I think he will do well.

GerryOP writes:

in response to TheStupidPolice:

My thinking on Butch Jones so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG7LHS...

Time to support our Vols or shut up ... stupid.

nocleats writes:

in response to shorttail:

NEED DT'S AND SAFTIES, --- NOW

And a couple of real deal RBs

nocleats writes:

Jimmy Cheek needs to make the changes Hart says they are "addressing" and it needs to happen now! If he wont do it(Fulmer,Kiffin,Dooley,Hamilton, and Hart have all asked,pleaded,begged) then Cheek needs to be removed.

underthehill writes:

in response to FLORIDAGATORHATER:

Next year we have a tough schedule. But with the right coaching I believe we have the talent to surprise a couple of teams. In my view, if Jones makes the right moves, we have a chance to beat South Carolina, Georgia, and Vanderbilt. South Carolina loses a lot of key players, as does Georgia. Vanderbilt will be without their running back, quarterback, and possibly their best receiver, and we play them at home. There is a decent chance we win two of these three games. I believe we are solid at quarterback, with or without Bray. Our offensive line and RBs will be even better next year. We have some young WRs who I believe can get the job done with short passes and quick-hitters, which are things Chaney didn't focus on enough in my opinion. I think our lack of a tight end could hurt us, however. While we will probably lose to Oregon, Bama, and Florida, I still believe Jones can put together a respectable year. I believe the players will play for him. This is not a Dooley hire. This man is a football coach.

You certainly have a right to your view..but I do not share that view..unrealistic expectations proved to be a negative last year..the chance UT could beat S Car..Ga..or Vandy next year is slim at best and will take an unbelievable coaching job..Vandy is stocked at qb and has 4 star recruit..their #2 and 3# running backs are better than anything UT has..Matthews and Boyd both return..UT's offensive line is all that is better than Vandy's and they make up for a lack of talent with execution..if UT wins 5 it will be a good coaching year..if UT wins 6 ..it will be a great coaching year..if UT wins 7 it will be a minor miracle..as I see it UT needs at least 2 years to be expected to be competitive..one comment I heard was..what if UT had not got Jones..then what..if you think about that ..Jones obviously was a good choice at the time..so I hope UT fans do not start with the 8-4, 9-3 junk like last year..and judge the results on the situation he starts in..

arkyvol writes:

first real enthusiasm about the program i've felt since 09 (and yeah, weasel boy was infectiously inspiring--at first). although i gotta admit that i felt an uptick when hammy was shown the door.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to underthehill:

You certainly have a right to your view..but I do not share that view..unrealistic expectations proved to be a negative last year..the chance UT could beat S Car..Ga..or Vandy next year is slim at best and will take an unbelievable coaching job..Vandy is stocked at qb and has 4 star recruit..their #2 and 3# running backs are better than anything UT has..Matthews and Boyd both return..UT's offensive line is all that is better than Vandy's and they make up for a lack of talent with execution..if UT wins 5 it will be a good coaching year..if UT wins 6 ..it will be a great coaching year..if UT wins 7 it will be a minor miracle..as I see it UT needs at least 2 years to be expected to be competitive..one comment I heard was..what if UT had not got Jones..then what..if you think about that ..Jones obviously was a good choice at the time..so I hope UT fans do not start with the 8-4, 9-3 junk like last year..and judge the results on the situation he starts in..

We really don't need fans (?) like you Take your negative arse back to Candyland and stay there. GBO VFL

BigOrangeRock writes:

This starts his year one, right?

JDX47 writes:

I'm just glad he hasn't said, "you won't have Tennessee to push around anymore."

johnlg00 writes:

in response to gobigorange5090:

Hire a GOOD kicking coach.

The NCAA no longer allows a position for a dedicated kicking coach. It can only be hoped that one of the other position knows something about coaching kickers. There are a number of off-season kicking camps, which I hope some of our kickers will attend. Also, since the kicking motion is like no other in football--all kinds of possibilities of groin and hamstring injuries--it is important that the S&C staff know how to train kickers.

LCPanthers (Inactive) writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

I really like butch jones I hope this works. Tuberville wanted this job.Jimmy Hyams said on the radio on fri in birmingham AL jox radio. said that Tubbervile told Tennessee "I have a winning record against nick saban and I can beat him again" here is the link.
http://www.joxfm.com/Article.asp?id=2...
Tommy tubbs stats
Undefeated season, won the sec west 5 out of the ten years he coached. I do not believe there is no big bama hart conspiracy but he has sec experience and he wanted the job. I hope there was a good reason he did not get offered the job.

Agreed----Tubberville was the best hire--but as usual Hart screwed it up somehow.I would like to know if Tubberville was contacted at all.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Tallguy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I don't know if athletes are held to the same standard as regular students at UC, but it is one of the higher-rated academic institutions in the country. Of course, your post also suggests that UC players are not as good on the field as those of the elite programs, which may be true, but as others have said and you imply, you just don't get the number of outstanding athletes at a UC that is the norm in the SEC. We can surely hope that Jones can parlay his own recruiting skills and UT's assets into landing a class that can help us win.

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