Tennessee coach Butch Jones finished up a workout with his team on campus Wednesday morning and drove to a speaking engagement trying to regain his voice.
Even a pre-speech sweet tea couldn’t eliminate the hoarseness.
“The players saw a little bit of Butch Jones this morning,” Jones told the crowd at the Knoxville Tip-Off Club at Calhoun’s restaurant.
“They’re going to have my mentality...But this team has been really receptive. It’s more like, ‘Just teach us, coach. We want to win.’”
But while fans have seen the affable and friendly side of Jones during his first three months on the job, players have started to learn
that he also means business.
When they arrive for workouts Friday morning, players will be wearing one of three jerseys.
“They’ll be graded in three areas,” Jones said. “If they play at a championship level, they’ll wear orange. If they’re average, they’ll
be white. If they’re awful or not up to our standard, they’ll be in blue.”
What does Jones expect to see?
“We have a lot of guys in white and a lot in blue, but we’ll get that corrected,” Jones said.
After giving his standard stump speech, Jones took questions from the crowd for several minutes. Among the notable responses:
* Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez will be given the title of assistant head coach for defense. Defensive line coach Steve Stripling
has already been designated assistant head coach. John Jancek is the defensive coordinator.
* Jones said that offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian had been approached by two SEC schools this offseason, and receivers coach Zach Azzanni,
who came to UT from Wisconsin, had “turned down three SEC jobs this year.”
* New NCAA rules that increase the amount of contact allowed during the recruiting process will put new burdens on prospects, Jones said
in surprisingly forceful comments.
“As coaches, as peers, we’re trying to get (the rules) stopped,” Jones said. “I can’t believe he didn’t have a say.”
Just because certain restrictions are difficult to enforce doesn’t mean the NCAA should end the limitations, he said.
"We have a speed limit for a reason. Law enforcement agencies don't say, ‘Well, we can’t enforce the speed limit, so we’re going to do away with it,’” Jones said.
Jones also referenced a conversation with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
“Jim Tressel called me last year and he said, 'Butch, we have to protect the integrity of our game. It’s not pro football,’” Jones said.
“We have to make sure it doesn't turn into the entertainment business."
* Jones also predicted that rules concerning player safety would have a dramatic impact on the game, including the elimination of the kickoff, perhaps within five years.
Jones was well-received by the audience of basketball fans, and he praised the success of UT’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.
"I want to be here the rest of my career,” Jones said. “Maybe one day they'll have a street named after me."