Tennessee Football: Why Vols Fans Need to Be Happy with Butch Jones
Butch Jones was hired Friday as the 24th head coach in the history of the University of Tennessee program.
The hiring process played out in a very public manner as the country watched coaches turn down the job to stay at their current place of employment, most notably Charlie Strong of Louisville.
In the end, the Vols ended up with a coach who won or shared the conference title four times in his six seasons at Cincinnati and Central Michigan. Not bad for a fallback plan if you ask me.
Jones is currently putting together a staff that will feature several of his assistants from Cincinnati, a couple former SEC assistants and current Tennessee running backs coach Jay Graham.
The initial reaction from Vols fans was not a positive one. Jones quickly took a beating on social media outlets, and some Vols fans refused to believe that he will succeed in Knoxville.
Let's address the biggest worries fans have about Jones.
If there's one thing Jones' track record as a head has shown, it's that he can coach. Four conference championships in six years don't just happen because of luck.
Yes, they came in the MAC and Big East which are by no means comparable to the SEC. However, Jones wasn't playing with a SEC roster either. He didn't have the ability to draw in SEC-caliber talent to Cincinnati.
The man can coach, and he's going to get his chance now to prove it on the biggest stage in college football.
Many of the naysayers point to Jones' assumed lack of ability to recruit at a SEC level. As was previously stated, you can't use his recruiting at Cincinnati as a basis for how well he will recruit in the SEC.
When trying to sell the two programs, there's no question that Tennessee is a much more attractive school to a top prospect. Even with the Vols being in such a down state, they have continued to sign top 25 classes, which speaks volumes to the history and tradition of the university.
Are you excited about the hiring of Butch Jones?
For example, current Tennessee linebacker Kenneth Bynum was committed to Butch Jones and Cincinnati last year all the way up through national signing day. However, he didn't sign his Letter of Intent because there was a chance he would get an offer from the Vols.
Derek Dooley and company eventually extended the linebacker an offer, and he immediately dropped his commitment to the Bearcats and pledged to the Vols. That's a perfect example of the kind of uphill battle Jones was fighting at Cincinnati.
Also, other SEC coaches didn't exactly tear up the recruiting trail before they got the SEC jobs either.
In Urban Meyer's two years at Utah prior to taking over at Florida, the Utes signed the 90th- and 76th-ranked classes in the country according to Rivals.com.
Les Miles' last class at Oklahoma State before he left for LSU was ranked 62nd nationally.
Kevin Sumlin, previously at Houston before Texas A&M, had classes ranked 61st, 45th and 73rd.
For comparisons sake, Jones' three Cincinnati classes came in at 59th, 49th and 50th. All of those classes, by the way, ranked higher than any of Brian Kelly's four classes as head coach of the Bearcats prior to Jones.
Recruits are still and will continue to be interested in the University of Tennessee, and excitement has already started to spread about Jones taking over.
Asiantii Woulard, one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 class, took to Twitter to express excitement in the hiring:
@Asiantii_2: Excited to see the new coaches turn programs around next year, next season is gonna be interesting..
Woulard isn't the only recruit excited about Jones now in charge on Rocky Top. Here's big-time class of 2014 recruit Vic Wharton:
@VWharton5: Fans might not be happy if Jones gets job but recruits will.
The other major area Tennessee fans seem to be concerned with about Jones is the staff he is putting together. As it appears, Jones is bringing four coaches with him that were on his staff at Cincinnati: offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, offensive line coach Don Mahoney, defensive coordinator John Jancek and defensive line coach Steve Stripling.
For a lot of fans, that seems to be a major red flag. However, a little research would show you that it's not uncommon.
Again, we will look at Urban Meyer. When Meyer was hired at Florida, he brought four of his assistants from Utah with him to the Sunshine state. One of those happened to be offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who seems to be doing OK for himself right now at Mississippi State.
Jones' former mentor Brian Kelly left Cincinnati after the 2009 season and took over in South Bend at Notre Dame. Kelly's first Notre Dame staff included four coaches from his previous Cincinnati staff. I'd say things have worked out pretty well for Kelly considering he's preparing right now for a chance at a national championship.
When a new coach comes in, he often wants coaches around him that have worked with him in the past. He knows those guys share his coaching philosophy and know what to expect. This is no different for Butch Jones. These guys can obviously coach based on the results they got at Cincinnati.
Additionally, Jones is bringing in assistants that have SEC ties to fill his other spots. I mentioned this on Friday in an article about the first things Jones needed to do as the Tennessee head coach.
Reports are that Willie Martinez and Tommy Thigpen are coming to join his staff after being at Auburn this past year. Add in Jay Graham being retained and the reports that former Tennessee quarterback and current USC assistant Tee Martin has an offer to come back to Knoxville, and Jones will have a pretty good staff assembled.
While there's no guarantee that Butch Jones is going to return Tennessee to its once proud place amongst the great programs in college football, fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about the future of the Tennessee program.
For those of you that are still looking for a reason to get excited, here's possibly the biggest one of them all: Derek Dooley is no longer the coach in Knoxville. That should do it for you.
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