Mike Strange: Enjoy the newness while it lasts

Mike Strange
PHOTOS BY Dave Martin/Associated Press
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones talks with reporters during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Wednesday.

Photo by Dave Martin

PHOTOS BY Dave Martin/Associated Press Tennessee football coach Butch Jones talks with reporters during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Wednesday.

Ju'Wuan James on the Vols' recruiting success under Butch Jones

HOOVER, Ala. — The elevator door closed behind him. Butch Jones had been at SEC Media Days less than 10 minutes Wednesday, signing autographs inside the hotel lobby entrance.

The Big East Conference did a nice job with its media days, Tennessee’s latest coach who was hired away from Cincinnati allowed on the ride up.

“But,’’ he added quietly with a smile, “it’s nothing like this, already.’’

There is nothing like this, at least not in college football. The passion for SEC football leads grown men and women behave in peculiar ways, especially in the fall.

It also leads them to fire coaches at an alarming rate.

Jones was but one of four new coaches making the rounds Wednesday, a testament to the high expectations that come with high visibility and high salaries.

Mark Stoops of Kentucky preceded Jones on the gauntlet through more than 1,000 media types. Gus Malzahn of Auburn and Bret Bielema of Arkansas followed him.

They might not have admitted it on camera, but any of the four would probably take the 7-6, bowl-win season that rookie Hugh Freeze accomplished at Ole Miss in 2012.

None of the four are here because their predecessor won a ring and then left for a better job. None of the four inherited a roster ready to make an Alabama fan raise a nervous sweat.

Thus, the four-part harmony on a message of redemption and rebuilding.

Let’s play match the coach with the quote.

“We understand there’s a lot of hard work that lies ahead, but we’re embracing that process and working hard each and every day to improve this team.’’

Take a stab?

That was Kentucky’s Stoops, formerly the defensive coordinator at Florida State. His Wildcats were 0-8 in the SEC last year. Improve indeed.

“They’ve really bought into the ‘new day’ theme, putting the past behind them.’’

Could have been any of them, but that was Malzahn, who returns to Auburn, where he was offensive coordinator from 2009-11.

The difference is that the Tigers went 30-10 those years, including 14-0 in the 2010 national title season. Auburn was 0-8 in the SEC last year. Instead of a new day, any 2010 day would be fine.

“We’ve talked about building a championship culture, working to get (blank) football back to its rightful place among the elite of college football.’’

You can rule out Stoops. Kentucky’s rightful place is among the elite of college basketball. That leaves Malzahn or Bielema, but Jones gets the credit. The blank is Tennessee, which has slipped from the elite with four losing seasons in the past five.

“Scars are a great thing, a daily reminder of the things you persevered. I

told the team, ‘You’re gonna look back at this being a growing time instead of a dying time.’ ’’

Scars? Didn’t Derek Dooley talk about scars being a good thing, too? There are plenty to go around but today we quote Bielema, whose Razorbacks are scarred by going through three coaches in three years. That is a scenario Tennessee experienced from 2008-2010 and has yet to recover.

So what are the recovery chances for our four hopeful newbies? Jones and Stoops, in particular, have been recruiting like gangbusters, but that won’t help in 2013.

The SEC is brutal. We all know that. But of the 10 returning coaches, seven at least had winning records in their initial SEC seasons.

Freeze, Nick Saban (Alabama) and Will Muschamp (Florida) each went 7-6. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) went 7-5. Mark Richt was 8-4 at Georgia.

James Franklin was 6-7 at Vanderbilt, which, graded on the curve of the Commodores’ morbid history, is winning.

Les Miles and Kevin Sumlin each went 11-2, at LSU and Texas A&M, respectively. That’s beyond even pipe-dream fantasy for this crop of rebuilders.

And yet, all four fan bases are re-energized. All four teams have “bought in” to a new agenda. Everywhere, offseason workouts have gone better than ever.

And Wednesday, all four coaches were winners at SEC Media Days.

Enjoy the newness while it lasts. It doesn’t last long in the SEC.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44

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Comments » 27

RockyMtnVol writes:

Mike = Debbie Downer. All those teams (except KY and Vandy) have the talent to bounce back or over achieve in 2013. Passion, Chip on the shoulder, ball bouncing the right way could give either of these teams a winning record. The great thing about the SEC, any of the 14 teams could rise to the top without notice. My opinion is most opinions are based on the past and not on the future. That is why most "sports writers" don't have much $$$, their wrong more than their right. I would believe the Vegas odds before I would any KNS writer.

Go Vols!!!

ColdBlackWind writes:

Wins are always important. My expectation for team 117 is to be disciplined, hard hitting, excellent on special teams and have a never give up nasty streak. With the calvary on the way in 2014-2015 we need to develop our identity as a team that will knock you in the dirt no matter what the score is. We did that to UA and UF a couple of years before we put some W's up against them. Football is still simple, hit them till they don't want hit any more and sooner or later good things happen. Go Vols!

Colliervol writes:

in response to RockyMtnVol:

Mike = Debbie Downer. All those teams (except KY and Vandy) have the talent to bounce back or over achieve in 2013. Passion, Chip on the shoulder, ball bouncing the right way could give either of these teams a winning record. The great thing about the SEC, any of the 14 teams could rise to the top without notice. My opinion is most opinions are based on the past and not on the future. That is why most "sports writers" don't have much $$$, their wrong more than their right. I would believe the Vegas odds before I would any KNS writer.

Go Vols!!!

Those were the first two words that came to my mind when I saw the title. Debbie Downer. It's sad we expect a negative article every day from the KNS. Not to mention Masters of the Obvious. "The SEC is tough." As if nobody knew.

VolunteerLifer writes:

"Enjoy the newness while it lasts. It doesn’t last long in the SEC."

Nor for sportswriters, Strange.

OrangePride writes:

Here is the unvarnished truth......none of these people have a clue as to what kind of team or year Tennessee might have in 2013. I get a kick out of all this talk about Tyler left, the receivers are gone, woe is me what are we to do?!! Ridiculous! You think we don't have ANY talented receivers on next year's roster? No quarterbacks to run the team?? Get real. Hunter was a freshman. Rodgers was a freshman. Heck, we have lots of instances of freshman qb's as well. So how will Tennessee do this season in terms of W-L?None of us really know, but here's what I AM confident of: we will look a heck of a lot better than we have these last two years! So to answer MS admonishment.....YES. I will enjoy while I can, and I will enjoy the season too. BANK IT, AND GO VOLS!! I'M ALL IN FOR TENNESSEE!!!!

Loud_Proud writes:

The thing is, he is right. Everyone wants to be on board when we are reeling in recruits left and right, and have the number 1 class in the nation. it's the hard times when everyone suddenly wants to fire our coach and jump off of a "sinking ship" so to speak. It frustrates me to no end. Be there. Support the team. If you don't want to through the good and bad, GTFO.

tennlions writes:

The way team #117 plays will be the big indicator of CBJ's long term success. This year isn't gonna be pretty, next year will be better simply due to the increase in talent, and then 2015 should be the year that the word elite should be thrown around. The future is definitely bright with CBJ. GBO!!

johnlg00 writes:

I think some of Mike's "newness" allusion could be aimed at fans as well. So far, all the comments have civil and mostly positive for the Vols. Jones has clearly made a positive impression on most of the fan base and seems to have done so with the team and prospects as well.

However, not a drop of sweat has been shed in a game yet. The first two games are on the road against dangerous--some might say, overwhelming--opponents. If some players get hurt, or if they lose big early, it will be a test of the character of fans and the team alike. The players have to keep believing in what they are being taught; they have no choice once the season is under way, since major changes would look like panic, and panic feeds on itself.

The fans have to realize that for those first couple of games especially, it might be hard to see even the fairly minimal basic improvements we hope to see. Given the fickle nature of the more casual fans, it will be easy under those circumstances to be negative about the whole Jones regime. And of course the usual trolls and boobirds will rejoice. So there are lots of circumstances that could conspire to wear the, er, "new-coach smell" off of Jones fairly early on.

After a bad start, we have to see how the team bounces back. As they get more familiar with each other in live game circumstances and the competition eases down a notch, if they all have the character we hope they have, they will overcome a slow start.

Of course, it would be great if they could win one or both of those, but let's not go overboard either way. Expect anything at all from this year's Vols; about the only outcome that should shock anyone is if the Vols win the SEC this year! But I would take it(;-P)!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Loud_Proud:

The thing is, he is right. Everyone wants to be on board when we are reeling in recruits left and right, and have the number 1 class in the nation. it's the hard times when everyone suddenly wants to fire our coach and jump off of a "sinking ship" so to speak. It frustrates me to no end. Be there. Support the team. If you don't want to through the good and bad, GTFO.

What you said! GBO!!!

MilitaryBrat writes:

in response to RockyMtnVol:

Mike = Debbie Downer. All those teams (except KY and Vandy) have the talent to bounce back or over achieve in 2013. Passion, Chip on the shoulder, ball bouncing the right way could give either of these teams a winning record. The great thing about the SEC, any of the 14 teams could rise to the top without notice. My opinion is most opinions are based on the past and not on the future. That is why most "sports writers" don't have much $$$, their wrong more than their right. I would believe the Vegas odds before I would any KNS writer.

Go Vols!!!

Sounds like Strange wants to be like his hero - John Adams.

volnsc51 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Here is the unvarnished truth......none of these people have a clue as to what kind of team or year Tennessee might have in 2013. I get a kick out of all this talk about Tyler left, the receivers are gone, woe is me what are we to do?!! Ridiculous! You think we don't have ANY talented receivers on next year's roster? No quarterbacks to run the team?? Get real. Hunter was a freshman. Rodgers was a freshman. Heck, we have lots of instances of freshman qb's as well. So how will Tennessee do this season in terms of W-L?None of us really know, but here's what I AM confident of: we will look a heck of a lot better than we have these last two years! So to answer MS admonishment.....YES. I will enjoy while I can, and I will enjoy the season too. BANK IT, AND GO VOLS!! I'M ALL IN FOR TENNESSEE!!!!

+1 Peyton played as a freshman, and did not carry the team. We had a mammoth line and he did a lot of handing off to a tailback. Made the play action very effective. I'm not saying we have another Peyton on the roster, but we do have a GREAT line and 2 running backs that should be good enough to move the chains. Throw in the up tempo quick passing game and who knows what will happen?

Ayres_Hall writes:

The article is fair.

We'll be a better team this year. But how much better? Can we beat Vandy or Missouri or Auburn? Look at the schedule. What 6 or maybe 7 are we going to win?

I too am excited about the 2014 recruiting class. But they are upcoming senior high school players a whole year removed from helping this team.

Reality. If we improve a lot then we are going to win one maybe two more SEC game than last year. Who's that gong to be?

GONAVY writes:

in response to RockyMtnVol:

Mike = Debbie Downer. All those teams (except KY and Vandy) have the talent to bounce back or over achieve in 2013. Passion, Chip on the shoulder, ball bouncing the right way could give either of these teams a winning record. The great thing about the SEC, any of the 14 teams could rise to the top without notice. My opinion is most opinions are based on the past and not on the future. That is why most "sports writers" don't have much $$$, their wrong more than their right. I would believe the Vegas odds before I would any KNS writer.

Go Vols!!!

Agree on UK. Disagree on Vanderbilt.

GONAVY writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I think some of Mike's "newness" allusion could be aimed at fans as well. So far, all the comments have civil and mostly positive for the Vols. Jones has clearly made a positive impression on most of the fan base and seems to have done so with the team and prospects as well.

However, not a drop of sweat has been shed in a game yet. The first two games are on the road against dangerous--some might say, overwhelming--opponents. If some players get hurt, or if they lose big early, it will be a test of the character of fans and the team alike. The players have to keep believing in what they are being taught; they have no choice once the season is under way, since major changes would look like panic, and panic feeds on itself.

The fans have to realize that for those first couple of games especially, it might be hard to see even the fairly minimal basic improvements we hope to see. Given the fickle nature of the more casual fans, it will be easy under those circumstances to be negative about the whole Jones regime. And of course the usual trolls and boobirds will rejoice. So there are lots of circumstances that could conspire to wear the, er, "new-coach smell" off of Jones fairly early on.

After a bad start, we have to see how the team bounces back. As they get more familiar with each other in live game circumstances and the competition eases down a notch, if they all have the character we hope they have, they will overcome a slow start.

Of course, it would be great if they could win one or both of those, but let's not go overboard either way. Expect anything at all from this year's Vols; about the only outcome that should shock anyone is if the Vols win the SEC this year! But I would take it(;-P)!

Good post. Fans are always quick to jump either way. I expect UT to be 3-2 heading into a critical 3 week stretch that includes an off week after Georgia and before SC...both home games. That's a critical juncture. Both UGA and SC have better teams, but you never know with both being in Knoxville.

GONAVY writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

The article is fair.

We'll be a better team this year. But how much better? Can we beat Vandy or Missouri or Auburn? Look at the schedule. What 6 or maybe 7 are we going to win?

I too am excited about the 2014 recruiting class. But they are upcoming senior high school players a whole year removed from helping this team.

Reality. If we improve a lot then we are going to win one maybe two more SEC game than last year. Who's that gong to be?

Good post. I think all 3 games you mention are toss-ups.

HoustonVol writes:

There is more talent on this team than people are given credit. We were within one drive of beating USCe, UGA, Mizz, and one quarter of beating UF. If we had had any defense, all of those games are winnable. That was three top ten teams we took to the mat, and could have beaten. We have the best offensive line in the league, and some say the nation. That goes a long way to helping out an offense. Just look at TAMU last year. New QB, WR but two starting NFL linemen, and look what happened. Worley was Mr. NC, and set all types of high school records in that state. There are WR on the team, but it is a weakness that will either have players step up or continue to hold the offense back. However to we have two experienced tailback, and a big offensive line. The defense has to be improved, While I think an 11-2 season would be a pipe dream, I do expect a vastly more satisfying season this year. 8-4 would not surprise me at all.

antonio14313 writes:

"James Franklin was 6-7 at Vanderbilt, which, graded on the curve of the Commodores’ morbid history, is winning." arguably the best thing that this guy has ever typed.

go vols.

t

antonio14313 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Here is the unvarnished truth......none of these people have a clue as to what kind of team or year Tennessee might have in 2013. I get a kick out of all this talk about Tyler left, the receivers are gone, woe is me what are we to do?!! Ridiculous! You think we don't have ANY talented receivers on next year's roster? No quarterbacks to run the team?? Get real. Hunter was a freshman. Rodgers was a freshman. Heck, we have lots of instances of freshman qb's as well. So how will Tennessee do this season in terms of W-L?None of us really know, but here's what I AM confident of: we will look a heck of a lot better than we have these last two years! So to answer MS admonishment.....YES. I will enjoy while I can, and I will enjoy the season too. BANK IT, AND GO VOLS!! I'M ALL IN FOR TENNESSEE!!!!

exactly!

year after year after year after year good and great players leave, or graduate. and, guess what? they're replaced by guys that either are ready to step up, or aren't ready to step up. and, my guess is, the guys that are about to step in and replace the departed bray, patterson, hunter, rodgers, and others, these guys will be ready...

go vols!

t

EastTnVols962 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I think some of Mike's "newness" allusion could be aimed at fans as well. So far, all the comments have civil and mostly positive for the Vols. Jones has clearly made a positive impression on most of the fan base and seems to have done so with the team and prospects as well.

However, not a drop of sweat has been shed in a game yet. The first two games are on the road against dangerous--some might say, overwhelming--opponents. If some players get hurt, or if they lose big early, it will be a test of the character of fans and the team alike. The players have to keep believing in what they are being taught; they have no choice once the season is under way, since major changes would look like panic, and panic feeds on itself.

The fans have to realize that for those first couple of games especially, it might be hard to see even the fairly minimal basic improvements we hope to see. Given the fickle nature of the more casual fans, it will be easy under those circumstances to be negative about the whole Jones regime. And of course the usual trolls and boobirds will rejoice. So there are lots of circumstances that could conspire to wear the, er, "new-coach smell" off of Jones fairly early on.

After a bad start, we have to see how the team bounces back. As they get more familiar with each other in live game circumstances and the competition eases down a notch, if they all have the character we hope they have, they will overcome a slow start.

Of course, it would be great if they could win one or both of those, but let's not go overboard either way. Expect anything at all from this year's Vols; about the only outcome that should shock anyone is if the Vols win the SEC this year! But I would take it(;-P)!

I don't know if you just mistyped, or if I'm reading it wrong, but our first two games are both at home against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky.

Olddogsrule writes:

Give the defense a little more credit. The Govn-uh?-nahs!(W) and Hilltoppers(W) will give them game experience to settle in and I hope we're going to be surprised at how well they perform against The Ducks(L) this year. The defense likes the 4-3 much better. I don't but who am I? I know they are bigger, faster, leaner, meaner, and hungrier than I've heard of them being at this point of the season since ..well when? I am hoping they are more than well coached by OC Jancek. They've been going against CBJ's and OC Bajakian's hurry up offense, and Oregon's offense can not be much faster, if any; so there won't be any suprises there. Oregon isn't some super team, and they do not play anything like an SEC rotation. When they come up against one really good team like Stanford they only scored two touchdowns, at home! Yeah, they piles on points at pre-season #1 USCw but look who's coaching! Kiffin's high skill team was imploding just like the Vols were under Dickey and especially Sunseri last year. The Ducks also have a new coach. This defense can be good, really good against them. The D-Line has the hosses. The secondary will be in better shape and better coached in a scheme they understand. The VOLS offense IS going to play smashmouth, slobberknockin' football THIS year. We have two fully adequate ball carriers, and an even faster offense than last. We only need to be able to hit short routes consistently and stretch out the long ball just enough to keep the Ducks secondary and safeties honest. The ground and quick hits can do the rest.

They don't have to win, but if they do well and keep it close against Oregon player confidence will get to bustin' out all over and, barring injury, they'll only get better for The Gators (L), Jaguars(W) , and Bulldogs(W) . The Open Date is great timing before the years gauntlet of The C.O.C.K.S(L), The Tide(L), Mizzou(W), and War Eagles(W)appears on the radar. Another Open Date and Candy(W), and the Smurffkitties(W) round out the season. That's an 8-4 regular season. Two games I actually consider a toss, I took as a W. ;-)

We'll definitely go bowling this year. Where and on what day is the only question. And ALL that is:

IF, A BIG IF, game day coaching is good. HC, OC, & DC all. If it's adequate I truly believe The Volunteers can be knocking on the door of the SEC East Championship next year. And after this year and next having proved coaching and having recruited the best and brightest players with skill and character as they seem to be doing, the sky's the limit.

THEY ARE RISING TO THE TOP!
GO DBJ! GO CMB! GO CJJ! GO YOU VOLUNTEERS!

SMOKEY RULES!

SCVFL writes:

in response to antonio14313:

"James Franklin was 6-7 at Vanderbilt, which, graded on the curve of the Commodores’ morbid history, is winning." arguably the best thing that this guy has ever typed.

go vols.

t

T,
I had the same quote copied and ready to paste when I seen your comment.
I wonder where Crappy_Commode_Door is when you need him??? I guess when he "anchored down" he sunk.
GBO

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to EastTnVols962:

I don't know if you just mistyped, or if I'm reading it wrong, but our first two games are both at home against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky.

ETV-962
John, transposed "are" while typing, should read;

"The first two games on the road are against dangerous--some might say, overwhelming--opponents."

They are Oregon and Florida. I don't consider the Ducks overwhelming this year. Too many questions with a new coach and look what Stanford did to them at home last year. We played thuh gatuhs tough last year 'til failure of defensive coaching became apparent, and that we only knew for sure a few games later.

LiveFaith writes:

It's hard to respect anything from Strange after he established himself as one of the top Brown Nosers in the country a few weeks back. You don't see any significant attrition at KNS due to sub-par performances. Hmmm?

On the verge of skipping KNS completely and sticking to VolNation and others. It's a beautiful thing to watch the old guard media (propaganda) fortress burning to the ground nationwide anyway. I look forward to the day that their big building on I-40 is being leased out for Flee Market space.

antonio14313 writes:

in response to SCVFL:

T,
I had the same quote copied and ready to paste when I seen your comment.
I wonder where Crappy_Commode_Door is when you need him??? I guess when he "anchored down" he sunk.
GBO

he sunk. him, and his peabody program, with all the scandal there.

crappy commode door doesn't matter. as a matter of fact, anyone that belittles our UT Vols don't matter (affectionately referred to as "trolls" here). i like to think of them all as manure: only good when used as fertalizer. ;)

i hope that vandyland enjoyed last season. cause that'll be their best season ever...

go vols.

t

lguy (Inactive) writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

The article is fair.

We'll be a better team this year. But how much better? Can we beat Vandy or Missouri or Auburn? Look at the schedule. What 6 or maybe 7 are we going to win?

I too am excited about the 2014 recruiting class. But they are upcoming senior high school players a whole year removed from helping this team.

Reality. If we improve a lot then we are going to win one maybe two more SEC game than last year. Who's that gong to be?

I'm predicting 11-2, with losses to Oregon and Alabama.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

ETV-962
John, transposed "are" while typing, should read;

"The first two games on the road are against dangerous--some might say, overwhelming--opponents."

They are Oregon and Florida. I don't consider the Ducks overwhelming this year. Too many questions with a new coach and look what Stanford did to them at home last year. We played thuh gatuhs tough last year 'til failure of defensive coaching became apparent, and that we only knew for sure a few games later.

I was thinking about Oregon and Florida. I confess I was too lazy to look up the schedule, but I thought the Oregon game was the lid-lifter, the way it was a few years ago. It's a good thing that they get a couple of games in before they meet the really tough opposition. It may not help enough against the Ducks and the Lizards but it's better than running right up against them right off the bat.

baldingalum writes:

If John Adams had written this, wow would folks have gone CRAZY!

Former Vol Charles Davis had some nice, positive points about Tennessee on the radio yesterday. He talked about their offensive line and about a defense that is much better than given credit for. His theory is that Tennessee will surprise people this year and that Butch and staff will really have to work hard to continue the momentum into 2014 when so many graduate.

I would agree.

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