Tennessee Football: How Butch Jones Can Recruit SEC Country

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVDecember 12, 2012

Photo courtesy of TNJN.com
Photo courtesy of TNJN.com

Tennessee football fans who wanted a proven Southeastern Conference recruiter may not have been wowed by the hiring of Butch Jones.

But fear not, Vol Nation, Jones is capable of getting the job done.

Jones prevailed in recruiting talented players to the University of Cincinnati, a program in a struggling conference in the Big East that plays in a 35,000-seat stadium.

Although Jones appealed to Ohio high-school players who wanted to stay close to home, he also pulled big recruits out of top states like Florida, Georgia and Alabama. 

That dynamic parallels the situation that Tennessee is in.

It can get all of the talent in its home state, but it won't make too much of a difference if it can't pull recruits out of these aforementioned states. If the Vols let rivals Nick Saban of Alabama and Will Muschamp of Florida dominate their own states, they will be doomed.

But Jones is now the face of a program with rich history and tradition, not to mention athletic facilities that trump nearly all of its rivals. There's no doubting he'll be able to vastly improve his recruiting abilities with the landscape that he inherited alone.

Although some players may enjoy the stability available by joining programs like Alabama, others will be excited to be a part of rebuilding one of the nation's most well-known programs from the ground up.

Jones is viewed by his peers as a very self-motivated, player-first individual who promotes honesty and a constant push for improvement with his players. Those are the ideals that any talented recruit looks for in his prospective coach. 

Those mentalities make up for a fierce recruiting agenda. Jones showed that much in his introductory press conference, putting back emphasis on the state of Tennessee in recruiting, according to Wes Rucker of GoVols247. 

Vols coach Butch Jones on recruiting in Tennessee: "We are the state institution, and we will own our state."

— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) December 7, 2012

While Tennessee cannot afford to recruit strictly in its own state, it's definitely an aspect that was ignored by Derek Dooley's staff—it tended to lose the state's best recruits to other schools. Regaining the dominance that UT once had over its state in recruiting will go a long way.

A huge step to Jones' adjustment to SEC country was retaining some of Tennessee's best recruiters.

He did just that by retaining running backs coach Jay Graham, one of the program's top recruiters, according to Jimmy Hyams of The Sports Animal in Knoxville:

UT coach Butch Jones is keeping RB coach Jay Graham but not OC jim chaney or OL coach sam pittman. Jones still considering Darin Hinshaw

— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) December 8, 2012

Not only is Graham a great recruiter, but he also played for the Vols during one of their golden eras (1993-96). His memories of elating the 100,000-plus fans in Neyland Stadium will resonate with young men who thrive for the exposure that comes with the SEC.

But as hard as Jones and his new staff work on recruiting, the one thing players want to see more than anything is a winning program. Dooley was able to recruit quite well, but he lost out on a lot of elite talent when it turned on the television set and watched his games.

Jones has the ability and tools around him to succeed on the recruiting trail in the SEC.

The only question remaining is if it will translate to wins come next fall. 


In addition to his work for Bleacher Report, Steven Cook covers the Tennessee football beat for the Tennessee Journalist, the online student publication. Follow him on Twitter!