Jones savors challenge of rebuilding Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Butch Jones realizes that returning a storied Volunteers program to Southeastern Conference contention is going to be a gradual process.

Jones is trying to rebuild a program that has posted three straight losing seasons, the first time that's happened at Tennessee since 1909-11. An unforgiving early-season schedule will make it tough to end that streak. Five of Tennessee's first eight games are against teams ranked ninth or higher in last year's final Top 25.

"This team will be defined by how we handle adversity, how resilient we are," Jones said. "As we know, the schedule is a great challenge. I know you guys get tired of hearing me say it, but it's all process oriented. Everything in this football program is process oriented."

Tennessee's offense lacks proven skill-position players. The defense is trying to bounce back from a season in which it allowed the most points (35.7) and yards (471.4) per game of any SEC team.

But the Volunteers believe they can turn things around after winning just one SEC game each of the last two years.

The defense expects to benefit from a return to a 4-3 alignment after a disastrous experiment with the 3-4 last season. The offense should get a boost from a veteran line that ranks among the nation's best and features potential first-round draft pick Antonio "Tiny" Richardson at left tackle.

Tennessee's players also say the new coaching staff has instilled a new attitude that should help them respond better in close games. The Vols were ahead or tied in the second half of three losses last season and were within three points in the fourth quarter of two other losses.

"We really fixed our focus," senior center James Stone said. "I feel like we have a lot more attention to detail. I feel like guys are starting to understand that you have to hold each other accountable on the field and off the field as well. I've seen that. I feel like the team has grown together. We're a closer team."

Now they want to prove they're closer to competing for bowl bids again.

___

Five things to watch in Jones' first year at Tennessee:

1. WHO'S PASSING AND CATCHING?: The star power disappeared from Tennessee's passing game when quarterback Tyler Bray, first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson and second-round choice Justin Hunter all bypassed their senior seasons. The Vols also must replace tight end Mychal Rivera and receiver Zach Rogers, who had a team-high seven touchdown catches last year. The Vols don't have any wideouts who caught more than 13 passes or accumulated more than 149 receiving yards last season.

2. LINE STRENGTH: Tennessee returns four starters from an offensive line that allowed only eight sacks last season. North Texas and Middle Tennessee were the only Football Bowl Subdivision programs that yielded fewer sacks. Richardson, a junior left tackle, is regarded as a potential first-round draft pick. The line also features at least three senior starters in Stone, guard Zach Fulton and right tackle Ja'Wuan James. Fifth-year senior Alex Bullard and junior Marcus Jackson, who both have starting experience, are competing to replace third-round draft pick Dallas Thomas at one guard spot.

3. DEFENSIVE SOLUTIONS: Last year, the Vols allowed the most points per game of any Tennessee team since 1893. They also gave up the most yards per game of any Tennessee team since at least 1950, the earliest year the school's sports information department has that statistic on file. The Vols insist things will be different this year. They welcome the return to a 4-3 scheme and say they're using last season's struggles as motivation. The return of free safety Brian Randolph from a torn anterior cruciate ligament should help.

4. JOHNSON'S LEADERSHIP: Linebacker A.J. Johnson returns for his junior season after making 138 tackles last season and ranking fourth among all FBS players with 11.5 tackles per game. Jones wants Johnson to develop into more of a leader this season and has pointed out that the Mike linebacker should be the "alpha male" of the defense.

5. SCARY SCHEDULE: By the time November rolls around, Tennessee already will have faced Oregon, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and defending national champion Alabama. The Vols travel to Oregon and Florida on consecutive September weekends.

Predicted order of finish: Sixth in seven-team in SEC East.

___

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Comments » 33

NashvillePreds writes:

Does Megargee actually spend any time on campus? From his "insightful" analysis, it would appear he made one trip to Knoxville in April.

Go Vols

WaItGoVols writes:

Not a bad analysis.

Walt

UT '81

jjsteel writes:

in response to WaItGoVols:

Not a bad analysis.

Walt

UT '81

True. I'm just hoping for some breaks to go the Vols way. You never know.

PHAT_VOL writes:

The VOLS will handle either the dawgs or the coks or maybe both.

GO BIG ORANGE!!!

dk writes:

7-5 probable and 8-4 possible. Finish the year with 4 straight wins and then on to the bowl game.

BolivrBob writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

The VOLS will handle either the dawgs or the coks or maybe both.

GO BIG ORANGE!!!

My belief also. We have more talent than what is thought by most. Jancek's defense will be stout. If we can move the ball, (which we will), we will be a dangerous team.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Let's hope Butch builds the program so successful to the point he never wants to leave it. Also hoping he feels that way already. I can hardly wait til the first game.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Butch Jones will be coach of the year if he wins 8 games, and with his proven system for success, the sky is the limit at UT..GBO!!

Rock_E_Topp88 writes:

in response to SAMA_BUCKS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

fearthehound writes:

in response to SAMA_BUCKS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How many screen names are you up to now, troll?

Colliervol writes:

Make no mistake, this is going to be a struggle this year. Wins will be precious and I'm not making any predictions. Got burned in 2005 doing that. How many teams can say they are playing 5 of the top 10? But no matter what the record, I fully believe this team will be more competitive and won't fall apart in the second half as we did so many times last year. I am concerned about all these injuries as depth is still a major issue. We get many more hurt and it's going to be even tougher.

vol98champ writes:

I'm hoping for 4th in the East with 3 conference wins. That will be a great foundation for the future.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Make no mistake, this is going to be a struggle this year. Wins will be precious and I'm not making any predictions. Got burned in 2005 doing that. How many teams can say they are playing 5 of the top 10? But no matter what the record, I fully believe this team will be more competitive and won't fall apart in the second half as we did so many times last year. I am concerned about all these injuries as depth is still a major issue. We get many more hurt and it's going to be even tougher.

Excellent insight and spoken with an abundance of commom sense. I like people who think with their brain and not their heart.

murrayvol writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

Excellent insight and spoken with an abundance of commom sense. I like people who think with their brain and not their heart.

Yep, that's what Collier does best.

murrayvol writes:

This article sums it up succinctly. 2013 will be a tough year. 2014 will be better.

I hate where we've been for the past few years but I damn sure like where we're going. GBO

Colliervol writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

Excellent insight and spoken with an abundance of commom sense. I like people who think with their brain and not their heart.

Oh I'd love to go with my heart but age and experience have taught me otherwise. Got to be a realist. I have a good feeling about Butch though. Different than I ever felt about Dooley. More confident and more demanding. It's all about wins though and he's got 3 to 4 years to prove himself. We shall see.

DawgDayAfternoon writes:

My oh my! All this adolescent bravado, predicting 8 or 9 wins! Why it's positively uncanny how it all reprises all the talk we heard about Dooley and Sunseri. Too bad come December all the Vols will have is another 5-7. Then you can reprise all the talk that despite all the decommitments, 2014's 21st rated recruiting class (11th in the SEC) is still the best in the nation.

smokeywantstoknow writes:

I know this is off the subject but does anyone know if we have a QB in next year recruiting class or even any QB prospects for next season GBO

PHAT_VOL writes:

in response to smokeywantstoknow:

I know this is off the subject but does anyone know if we have a QB in next year recruiting class or even any QB prospects for next season GBO

NO! So what does that tell you?

Shake_Bake writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Make no mistake, this is going to be a struggle this year. Wins will be precious and I'm not making any predictions. Got burned in 2005 doing that. How many teams can say they are playing 5 of the top 10? But no matter what the record, I fully believe this team will be more competitive and won't fall apart in the second half as we did so many times last year. I am concerned about all these injuries as depth is still a major issue. We get many more hurt and it's going to be even tougher.

I agree...great post! I'm trying hard to keep realistic expectations. This schedule is just brutal. I would love to get a big upset, that would help our program a lot. But we play in the most difficult conference in the nation, and then someone had the bright idea to play Oregon..geez, give me a break. I would take 6 wins and and bowl victory for CBJ first year and be pretty content. Anything greater than 6 is great!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

NO! So what does that tell you?

It tells me that the Vols have four QBs on the squad, none of them seniors. One of the freshmen could be a three- or even four-year starter. IMHO, the Vols need to stock up on linemen before they worry about a QB again.

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to SAMA_BUCKS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

rbwtn writes:

The offensive line blew me away when I saw all them side by side Pretty intimidating to say the least. Looking at the schedule there are no teams in the Nation that plays teams like the SEC. When we hear others brag about teams outside the SEC we, in the SEC know they just don't know football like fans in the SEC know, The level of play is on a much higher scale, period.

dirty_don writes:

14 - 0 National CHamps!!!! Same prediction every year. I was right once. How many of you can honestly say that.

vol98champ writes:

in response to johnlg00:

It tells me that the Vols have four QBs on the squad, none of them seniors. One of the freshmen could be a three- or even four-year starter. IMHO, the Vols need to stock up on linemen before they worry about a QB again.

Great comeback. That's why I always try to read your posts.

antonio14313 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

It tells me that the Vols have four QBs on the squad, none of them seniors. One of the freshmen could be a three- or even four-year starter. IMHO, the Vols need to stock up on linemen before they worry about a QB again.

well put. we don't need a QB in 2014. maybe 1 in 2015, but definitely at least 2 newcomers by 2016. i'd go for 2 per year after 2014: that way, if one decommits or transfers out, it doesn't hurt as much.

go vols!

t

allvol8 writes:

It never ceases to amaze me that fans from "other teams" like to come on our site..I am not expecting a NC this yr ( one can always hope) but the troll teams will not see it either. GBO!

tenndave writes:

10-2 write it down.

tenndave writes:

Tiny runs the ball on 1st and goal from 2 yd line. The Fridge returns.

tenndave writes:

Our O Line is good but what about their downfield speed. Can they lead Rajon or just watch him.

NYCApple writes:

in response to DawgDayAfternoon:

My oh my! All this adolescent bravado, predicting 8 or 9 wins! Why it's positively uncanny how it all reprises all the talk we heard about Dooley and Sunseri. Too bad come December all the Vols will have is another 5-7. Then you can reprise all the talk that despite all the decommitments, 2014's 21st rated recruiting class (11th in the SEC) is still the best in the nation.

Doosh

johnlg00 writes:

in response to NO_SIR_REE:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The truly great O-linemen block their men all the way out of the stadium, stopping only a smidge after the whistle blows. Linemen are nearly always assigned go after LBs to block on running plays; sweep plays are designed for O-linemen to block CBs. So in fact, it is more than useful to have linemen who can block downfield and not just at the line of scrimmage, and the best of them do that. You block your man at the line and then go find somebody else to block downfield. Maybe you need to watch a little closer.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

Best case scenario for this team is 6-6.

Jones is doing a commendable job in recruiting and selling the program which automatically puts him light years ahead of Dooley.

What he doesn't have is a serviceable secondary, a QB with significant experience, or any difference makers on either side of the ball.

You can't with against the Oregon's and Alabama's of the world with so many shortcomings.

6-6 with a bowl win will be a success by any measure. It's a shame that a decade plus of futility has set the bar so low.

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