Tennessee Football: What Butch Jones Will Bring to Volunteers
Earlier this week, when then-Cincinatti Bearcats head coach Butch Jones turned down the opportunity to coach the University of Colorado, one had to think that he had another agenda up his sleeve.
And he did, as Jones announced on Friday that he'd be filling the void at the University of Tennessee that was created when the Volunteers fired Derek Dooley after three disappointing seasons.
The hiring of Jones, while not a total surprise, wasn't exactly an obvious choice, as just a week ago ESPN's Chris Low listed the coaches who were thought to be in the running for the Tennessee job.
Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart is expected to meet with potential candidates next week in New York City at the College Football Hall of Fame ceremonies. Some of the names that have been mentioned as possibilities include Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Miami's Al Golden, North Carolina's Larry Fedora, Louisville's Charlie Strong and UCLA's Jim Mora Jr.
Nonetheless, now that the future's been decided for both Jones and the Volunteers, the question is, what can we expect from the former Central Michigan and Cincinnati coach in 2013 and beyond?
If his time with the Bearcats has told us anything, the most obvious thing that Jones will bring to the table is a winning pedigree and the confidence that goes along with it.
That's because in three short years, Jones picked up the pieces at Cincinnati after coach Brian Kelly's abrupt departure to Notre Dame, and though there were some growing pains at first, he led the Bearcats to two consecutive shared Big East titles.
At Central Michigan, Jones led the Chippewas to two conference titles in three years, highlighted by a season-ending spot in the AP top 25.
Then, as the Bearcats coach, Jones shook off a disappointing 4-8 debut season and led Cincinnati to a combined record of 19-6 over the course of the next two seasons, which vaulted him into contention for the vacant head coaching jobs at Colorado, Purdue and eventually Tennessee.
What was most impressive about Jones' Bearcats performance in 2012 was the team's stingy defense, which sits 13th in the nation in terms of points allowed heading into the bowl season. One can only wonder what he'll be able to do with the upgrade in terms of talent at Tennessee.
More than likely, there will be an adjustment period for Jones as the sixth-year head coach will be facing much tougher competition in the SEC, but it'll be difficult for him to do worse than Dooley did in 2012, as the Vols registered an embarrassing 1-7 conference record and a 5-7 mark overall.
While Cincinnati's strength was on the defensive side of the football under Jones, prior to becoming a head coach at Central Michigan, he was a strictly offensive assistant, serving as the offensive coordinator at both Ferris State and Central Michigan, as well as wide receivers coach at West Virginia.
Now, Jones has his work cut out for him.
He'll have to shore up one of the nation's most porous defenses, prepare it to play against some of the toughest offenses in college football, not to mention implement a new offense, and do it all before next fall.
Luckily for the Volunteers, if there's one thing that Jones has demonstrated during his six years as a head coach, it's that he's more than capable of rebuilding once-proud programs and restoring them to previous glory.
Whether he can do that on the big stage with Tennessee, though, remains to be seen.
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