John Adams: Butch Jones' recruiting proves that UT tradition still matters

John Adams
Tennessee football head coach Butch Jones looks on as early enrollee Riyahd Jones, left, enters during a press conference in the Stokely Family Media Center at Neyland Stadium Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. Coach Jones had Jones introduce himself along with fellow early enrollees Paul Harris, Lemond Johnson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Corey Vereen. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee football head coach Butch Jones looks on as early enrollee Riyahd Jones, left, enters during a press conference in the Stokely Family Media Center at Neyland Stadium Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. Coach Jones had Jones introduce himself along with fellow early enrollees Paul Harris, Lemond Johnson, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Corey Vereen. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

As Tennessee begins its preparation for the upcoming football season, fans probably already are looking to future seasons.

So what if the Vols are a consensus pick to finish in the bottom half of the SEC East this season. They’re recruiting like a top-five program.

And first-year coach Butch Jones is building up equity at an unprecedented pace for someone who has yet to put a single victory in Tennessee’s win column.

He’s doing something else, too. He’s reminding you that Tennessee remains a football attraction.

You might have wondered about that after three consecutive losing seasons led to the firing of coach Derek Dooley and the hiring of Jones.

Never mind the school’s well-documented football tradition. Tradition isn’t erosion-proof.

You couldn’t tell that by the way Jones and his staff are recruiting.

They didn’t hit the ground running. They came in flying.

And they haven’t slowed down since Jones left Cincinnati for Knoxville. Tennessee is putting together one of the best recruiting classes in the country.

That would have been the biggest story of SEC football’s offseason if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel hadn’t slept late at the Manning quarterback camp and Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison hadn’t barked at an on-duty police dog in Gainesville.

UT already has 24 commitments for its 2014 signing class. That’s Texas-like recruiting.

This UT isn’t Texas.

It has had four losing seasons in the past five years and hasn’t played in a BCS bowl since the 1999 season. It doesn’t have the built-in advantage of a bountiful in-state recruiting class. And it’s surrounded by national champions or national championship contenders in its own conference.

You would never know it by the way recruits keep pledging their allegiance.

It was surprising enough when Tennessee hit the double-figure mark in commitments so soon. It was more surprising when the momentum continued to build throughout the summer.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised by UT’s recruiting.

In the transition from longtime coach Phillip Fulmer to Lane Kiffin — and on the heels of a 5-7 season — the Vols still landed a top-10 class for 2009. They did the same a year later after a 7-6 season and another coaching change, as Dooley replaced Southern California-bound Kiffin.

Those recruiting classes didn’t play up to their ranking. However, they proved that even in the worst of times, Tennessee could attract highly recruited players.

Johnny Majors proved as much in the late 1970s when he returned to his alma mater after coaching Pittsburgh to the 1976 national championship.

Jones arrived from Cincinnati without anything close to a national championship on his resume. He was best known as the guy who followed Brian Kelly.

He was a Michigander with no Tennessee or even SEC connections. But he has sold Tennessee as though he were a direct descendant of Davy Crockett.

Granted, commitments don’t equate to signees. National Signing Day is months away, and there’s a daunting 2013 season in between. But if Jones and his staff were capable of convincing so many sought-after recruits to commit, they’re capable of holding on to most of them.

The scoreboard will command fans’ attention in another month. But they shouldn’t lose sight of that commitment list, either.

It’s too promising to ignore.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 84

Sir_Spanky writes:

Right decent article there, John.

fearthehound writes:

Welcome back.

LrgOrngFan writes:

Let's hope that he can keep 95% of the commits he has and do the same thing for several years in a row. That's what Phillip did and see what it got us, a perennial top 10 ranked football team always with a chance at a NC. I think this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, I DO think he can keep up this recruiting juggernaut and put us back where we are supposed to be.

Caspian writes:

No worries about holding onto existing recruits. So what if a few decommit. Happens everywhere, all the time. But the way Jones recruits, who knows who might flip to the Vols closer to signing day.

BolivrBob writes:

BUTch really knows how to create excitement. I believe it will translate into vastly improved play. Prediction: One of the top defenses in the conference. 9-3

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Well said, all of you.

Go Vols

bannervol writes:

'Bout damn time John. Welcome back.

SoFlaVol writes:

in response to BolivrBob:

BUTch really knows how to create excitement. I believe it will translate into vastly improved play. Prediction: One of the top defenses in the conference. 9-3

I believe an important part of the success of our defense and the record of 9-3 you predict, lies in the hands of the other Jones in the picture. If Riyahd Jones can become a shut down corner that we can count on to shut down the top receiver on the opposing team, we might have a shot at the performance you and I both hope to see.

Smokeydog1 writes:

Got to meet former bulldog David Pollack saturday in Chattanooga, and he said Butch Jones is going to be a superstar in the S.E.C. I think he is right!!

PHAT_VOL writes:

I think one thing that is over looked is that there were no players that left for another school when coach Jones took the job. Almost always you have players that just don't want to play for the new coach.

GO VOLS!!!

WaltGoVoIs writes:

More 'no-brainer' output by Adams.

Walt

UT '81

SEC__Headgear writes:

Everything has always been in place except a staff since around 2003. Even a kid can see that. Especially a kid. AD's notwithstanding

wononta writes:

This is what I have been saying, the recruiting classes have been great. Right now UT has some outstanding kind of underclassman talent. Lots of new guys, Jason Croom...

tovolny writes:

Does anybody know what John was trying to say? Is he praising Jones or is he telling us that several new Tennessee coaches in the past recruited well but still wound up not doing much. Is there any NEWS here. We know all about the 2009 recruiting classes and we know about the Dooley recruiting and outcomes. Is he trying to remind us of "same ole same ole" or what. John's stuff always have the "negative under currents" that appear to some as pro UT on the surface. PLEASE READ JOHN ADAMS WITH CARE, PLEASE.

BigBadVol writes:

Is that a softened tone by JA toward UT? It sounds as though CBJ has JA also believing. We will return to prominence again sooner than later. JMHO

ROCKYnROCKFORD writes:

..."he has sold Tennessee like he was a direct descendant of

Davy Crockett"......if Tennessee explodes this fall, look for Rick

Reilly to borrow that one.

lguy (Inactive) writes:

in response to BolivrBob:

BUTch really knows how to create excitement. I believe it will translate into vastly improved play. Prediction: One of the top defenses in the conference. 9-3

I like your thinking. With that record, depending on who the losses are to, it might even earn a trip to the SEC title game. But I'm going a step further. 10-2 with losses to Alabama and Oregon. Trip to Atlanta for a rematch with Alabama. Yes, I would like that scenario.

lguy (Inactive) writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

Is that a softened tone by JA toward UT? It sounds as though CBJ has JA also believing. We will return to prominence again sooner than later. JMHO

He just writes the truth and for some reason, Vol fans don't get that. We've sucked for several years. JA has written about how badly we've sucked. Now things are looking up with a great recruiting class, and he's writing about how things are looking up. Why is that so hard for the fans to understand?

ColdBlackWind writes:

I say it's GREAT, To Be......a TENNESSEE VOL! Let's hope it stays that way. The calvary is amassing at high schools across the eastern US. The Butcher knows who they are and they know Tennessee. His edge is getting in early on the good ones. Excellent judge of talent. Go Vols!

WaltGoVoIs writes:

in response to lguy:

He just writes the truth and for some reason, Vol fans don't get that. We've sucked for several years. JA has written about how badly we've sucked. Now things are looking up with a great recruiting class, and he's writing about how things are looking up. Why is that so hard for the fans to understand?

John Adams? The sports writer who opined last year that Derek Dooley might soon be a hot commodity?

This is another article void of semantic content.

Walt

UT '81

8inarow writes:

I have watched SEC football for decades. Did this "tradition" happen in the 1800's?

6972 writes:

in response to Smokeydog1:

Got to meet former bulldog David Pollack saturday in Chattanooga, and he said Butch Jones is going to be a superstar in the S.E.C. I think he is right!!

I like that. My enthusiasm just went up another notch.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

John Adams? The sports writer who opined last year that Derek Dooley might soon be a hot commodity?

This is another article void of semantic content.

Walt

UT '81

And yet you read it and comment not once but twice. Go figure

govols26 writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

I think one thing that is over looked is that there were no players that left for another school when coach Jones took the job. Almost always you have players that just don't want to play for the new coach.

GO VOLS!!!

You bring up a great point that I had overlooked as well. Not only have they not left but they genuinely seem to have bought in. They aren't just putting up with a new coach, they are committing to him. And that (hopefully) will translate into some big wins.

chattabluetick writes:

in response to Smokeydog1:

Got to meet former bulldog David Pollack saturday in Chattanooga, and he said Butch Jones is going to be a superstar in the S.E.C. I think he is right!!

David Pollack is one of the very few on college football shows the last couple of years to not talk down to the Tennessee Vols. He always shows respect to the Tennessee program while others are always running them down. He is a class individual and I hope he is sucessful in broadcasting. He was a player with a whale of a motor that never stopped competing, who's pro career was cut short by a neck injury. He's sold on Butch and so am I. What CBJ has done so far in recruiting is remarkable and I hope they all sign. He is still in on many others for 2014. His first win will be #800 for Vols, 2nd only to Alabama from S.E.C. who is around 829 wins.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

UT is back (recruiting wise anyway) and with a little success and more comfort in his role as UT HC, the sky is the limit..GBO!!

6972 writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I have watched SEC football for decades. Did this "tradition" happen in the 1800's?

"Decades" huh? Good luck this year passing 8th grade. 8 in a row is enough.Sure hope it doesn't take that long to pass the 9th.

AllforTenn writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I have watched SEC football for decades. Did this "tradition" happen in the 1800's?

It has happened over the past 10 decades, while your precious school was wallowing in mediocrity. And it will continue for decades to come.

MetroplexMojo writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

Is that a softened tone by JA toward UT? It sounds as though CBJ has JA also believing. We will return to prominence again sooner than later. JMHO

My bet on the subdued tone is either really good painkillers or a medicinal herbal remedy prescribed by the (witch) doctor.

rockypop writes:

Now that Butch Jones has sold the vision, he has to provide the proof that it's achievable, by winning. Otherwise, he could find those "commitments" re-committing.

I've never understood the concept of "committing," when it doesn't involve any restrictions on continuing recruitment.

Seems like "commitment" should mean something - like no additional recruitment by rival coaches. And, no more "official" visits. Instead, it's just business as usual.

There's no "commitment" involved. It's just an opportunity to have a media event. A "commitment" keeps a coach from offering more scholarships to student athletes playing a similar position, and it keeps other recruits from considering the school.

The "commitment" is a mess. It needs re-thinking.

underthehill writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

John Adams? The sports writer who opined last year that Derek Dooley might soon be a hot commodity?

This is another article void of semantic content.

Walt

UT '81

Walt..quit showing off your literary talent just to make JA look bad..I don't know what you mean by ..void of semantic content..do you?

beartn#223846 writes:

<<BUTch really knows how to create excitement. I believe it will translate into vastly improved play. Prediction: One of the top defenses in the conference. 9-3>>

I think Butch is creating excitement for a program that desperately needs it. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see anything close to 9-3. Our secondary is thin, and the backups showed they were too slow last year as the injuries mounted. We also don't have a lot of depth at LB, though I think our starting 3 will be pretty good. On offense, it will take a few games before our new QB and WR's start to gel. I'm thinking 7-6 or 6-6, but with better days ahead.

chattabluetick writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I have watched SEC football for decades. Did this "tradition" happen in the 1800's?

Let the numbers do the talking: Tn- 799-354-53, 16 conference titles, 38 consensus all-americans. Fla- 680-387-40, 8 conference titles, 31 consensus all-americans. Bowl records very similar, Tn 25-24, Fla. 20-20. Florida had a streak of 19 consecutive seasons, 1934-1952 where they won 5 or less games each year. So you see 3 5-win seasons in 5 years aint so bad when you consider 19 years of Gator futility. There might be 9 in a row but it won't just keep on rollin on and on. Misschimp not that great of a coach, I believe Butch can take him.

WaltGoVoIs writes:

in response to underthehill:

Walt..quit showing off your literary talent just to make JA look bad..I don't know what you mean by ..void of semantic content..do you?

"Void of semantic content" means that nothing useful or meaningful was said.

In other words, a typical Adams article.

Walt

UT '81

WaltGoVoIs writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I have watched SEC football for decades. Did this "tradition" happen in the 1800's?

It started with a coach called Neyland (Knee-land).

"He is one of two college football coaches to have won national titles in two non-consecutive tenures at the same school, along with Frank Leahy. Neyland holds the record for most wins in Tennessee Volunteers history with 173 wins in 216 games, six undefeated seasons, nine undefeated regular seasons, seven conference championships, and four national championships. At Tennessee, he reeled off undefeated streaks of 33, 28, 23, 19, and 14 games.

Neyland is often referred to as one of the best, if not the best, defensive football coaches ever. Sports Illustrated named Neyland as the defensive coordinator of its all-century college football team in its "Best of the 20th Century" edition.[3] 112 of his victories came via shutout. In 1938 and 1939, Neyland's Vols set NCAA records when they shut out 17 straight opponents for 71 consecutive shutout quarters. His '39 squad is the last NCAA team in history to hold every regular season opponent scoreless."

- wiki

UT has had the most successful program in college football going back to 1926.

Walt

UT '81

lguy (Inactive) writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

"Void of semantic content" means that nothing useful or meaningful was said.

In other words, a typical Adams article.

Walt

UT '81

Semantics means pertaining to words or symbols. So you mean to say, it has no meaning pertaining to words or symbols? No, you don't mean that. You mean it has no legitimate meaning to you, I guess. Obviously it has meaning in the semantic sense. I like you Walt. Stop being so pedantic.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I have watched SEC football for decades. Did this "tradition" happen in the 1800's?

Your an idiot. Bonzai Vol

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to lguy:

He just writes the truth and for some reason, Vol fans don't get that. We've sucked for several years. JA has written about how badly we've sucked. Now things are looking up with a great recruiting class, and he's writing about how things are looking up. Why is that so hard for the fans to understand?

We know the truth of the past five years. JA's problem is that, no matter how much the article promises to be positive, he seems to always spend more time and energy re-hashing the negative.

He can't tell us how he thinks things may be looking up, without beating us to death with how bad things have been.

Razor784 writes:

Welcome back

CroKev writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

John Adams? The sports writer who opined last year that Derek Dooley might soon be a hot commodity?

This is another article void of semantic content.

Walt

UT '81

Walt, go have yourself another drink...

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Oh my.

dragon18 writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

I think one thing that is over looked is that there were no players that left for another school when coach Jones took the job. Almost always you have players that just don't want to play for the new coach.

GO VOLS!!!

That's an excellent point that has gone relatively unnoticed. I think these kids really like this coaching staff and will run through walls for them. I think this team will surprise some people this year. However, I'm having a hard time with predicting 9-3 but it is possible.

dragon18 writes:

in response to 8inarow:

I have watched SEC football for decades. Did this "tradition" happen in the 1800's?

Haha! This from a Florida fan. I'm not from Tennessee but even I know UT was a powerful football program when nobody even knew Florida was playing the game. Florida's biggest claim to fame in athletics prior to Spurrier was Gatorade LOL!

richvol writes:

Adams is the master of the obvious. No insight here. If he had a novel thought we would be shocked.

EastTnVols962 writes:

Welcome Back John. I too have been very excited about Jones' success so far in recruiting. My season tix came in yesterday, and I cannot wait to put them to use. As Phat_Vol pointed out, no current players left when Jones was hired. They have really bought into this system. Heck even last night I enjoyed reading Byron Moore and Coack Azzani tweeting back and forth with friendly jabs on whether or not Coach A's receivers would be able to gain any ground on Moore and our D-backs come Friday. It just shows that not only do these players respect this staff, but they're also able to have fun and joke and have a good time with them. I know Jones had the team over for a cookout last week. It seems, from what I've seen, that Jones has not only built up a strong team, but instead has brought together a very talented family. And I for one can't wait to see what they do on the field.

murrayvol writes:

in response to WaltGoVoIs:

It started with a coach called Neyland (Knee-land).

"He is one of two college football coaches to have won national titles in two non-consecutive tenures at the same school, along with Frank Leahy. Neyland holds the record for most wins in Tennessee Volunteers history with 173 wins in 216 games, six undefeated seasons, nine undefeated regular seasons, seven conference championships, and four national championships. At Tennessee, he reeled off undefeated streaks of 33, 28, 23, 19, and 14 games.

Neyland is often referred to as one of the best, if not the best, defensive football coaches ever. Sports Illustrated named Neyland as the defensive coordinator of its all-century college football team in its "Best of the 20th Century" edition.[3] 112 of his victories came via shutout. In 1938 and 1939, Neyland's Vols set NCAA records when they shut out 17 straight opponents for 71 consecutive shutout quarters. His '39 squad is the last NCAA team in history to hold every regular season opponent scoreless."

- wiki

UT has had the most successful program in college football going back to 1926.

Walt

UT '81

Truth. Will be hurtful for some.

CrankE writes:

Looks like someone read the recruiting news while they away.

8inarow writes:

in response to 6972:

"Decades" huh? Good luck this year passing 8th grade. 8 in a row is enough.Sure hope it doesn't take that long to pass the 9th.

How long is a "decade" in Vol-math?

8inarow writes:

in response to dragon18:

Haha! This from a Florida fan. I'm not from Tennessee but even I know UT was a powerful football program when nobody even knew Florida was playing the game. Florida's biggest claim to fame in athletics prior to Spurrier was Gatorade LOL!

dragon...maybe you should check your history books. Since the mid-70's, UF and ut have faced off 27 times, with the Gators winning 21. (that means you won 6 in the last 30+years)

As I said, the Vols tradition must have been in the 1800's, because no one outside of Knoxville can remember back that far.

tennlions writes:

I would be surprised if there were more than just a couple of commits that changed their minds before NSD. Look at the way these guys recruit others to this program. You don't try to sell someone on UT if you're planning on leaving.

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