Butch Jones talks SEC Media Days, announces a possible open practice
Butch Jones announced his latest brainchild Tuesday.
“I’m going to tell you first,” he said with a hint of secrecy to a room of 300 Knoxville-area Rotary Club members. “I’m working right now on having an open practice.”
Looks like Vol fans raring to get into Neyland Stadium early and start the 2013 Tennessee season may get a chance. Jones said he’s trying to crack the stadium doors open for a Saturday evening preseason practice that will be open to the public.
“Here’s my thought process: As their football coach, I’ve never seen our players live,” he explained from a stage at the Crowne Plaza Knoxville hotel. “I’ve seen them one time in front of fans and that was the spring game and it was a great venue. But now we’re playing for real.”
The Vols’ opener is slated for Aug. 31 against Austin Peay at Neyland Stadium. Jones said he hopes to make the open practice a reality, adding that he’s “trying to get the logistics worked out” and that the practice is “not definite.”
“I want to treat it like a preseason game,” he said. “I want to put people in the stands. I want to put (the team) in pressure situations. I want the kickers in pressure situations. Also it’s an opportunity to give back to our fans as well.”
Asked afterward for details on planning the practice, Jones said the idea is “in the infant stages right now.”
“I’ll have a little bit more coming,” he added.
Prepping For a Peppering: According to league officials, more than 1,200 members of the media are credentialed for this week’s SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
Jones and Tennessee players Antonio Richardson, Ja’Wuan James and Jacques Smith will step into the crosshairs on Wednesday.
“I don’t know if you’re ever totally prepared,” Jones said. “Obviously I’ve been told about the venue and all that. I’ve been to numerous media days before.”
But none like this. Jones attended Big East Media Day the past three seasons, a mere tea party compared to the SEC’s bonanza.
This will be a
different world. Jones will be sprayed with questions about repairing Tennessee’s derailment and both SEC and NCAA-related issues.
“This is just an opportunity to expose the country to Tennessee football and what we’re doing,” Jones said. “As we all know, we have a ton of momentum right now.”
Then there will be the unpredictable questions. Jones said he went through some question and answer prep work with the UT media relations staff to avoid getting tripped up.
“You have to be ready for everything and anything when you have that amount of media that’s there and you get the attention,” he said.
A Major(s) Story: Asked by a Rotarian about his relationship with former UT coaches, Jones recounted this gem about Vols legend Johnny Majors, who attended multiple spring practices.
“We’re working with the kickoff team and it’s live,” he began. “We give up a return to about the 40-yard line and I go crazy. I say, ‘That’s not the standard for Tennessee football and how we’re going to play special teams.’
“Then I see Coach Majors and I say, ‘Coach Majors! Coach Majors! Is that right?’
“God bless him, Coach Majors, I’ve never see him move that fast. He sprinted out to the numbers, he takes his hat off and goes, ‘You’re God (darn) right Coach Jones, you give em hell. We’re Tennessee!”
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball and football. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn