Tennessee's Butch Jones: 'We're Still Years Away from Being Where We Need to Be'

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Tennessee's Butch Jones: 'We're Still Years Away from Being Where We Need to Be'
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — From the way he rushes restlessly around practice to the meticulous mapping out of every offseason day, it's obvious Tennessee football coach Butch Jones doesn't like to wait.

Unfortunately for him and the rest of the Vol Nation, long-dormant football programs aren't rebuilt overnight. 

The second-year top Volunteer has a plan with a purpose and the promise of prominence. But from behind the desk of his posh Anderson Training Center office, he told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview last week that the blueprint's fruition will require the one resource that runs narrower than a Rocky Top mountain stream:

Patience.

"I know we live in an instant-gratification societyI'm as impatient as anybody," Jones said. "But we're a work in progress. We're going to be the youngest team in the country playing a top-five schedule in the country, and that's why it's important to focus on the task at hand and the process.

"We're still years away from being where we need to be. We're at the infant stages of all this. You know, you don’t just fix a number of years in one or two years. You just don't do it. You're dealing with building a culture; you’re dealing with building an environment. It takes time. It's gonna get done. The only variable is time. That's why we have to be patient."

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The damage former coach Derek Dooley did to the UT program is taking some time to repair.

It isn't Jones' style to make excuses or point fingers at the Derek Dooley regime. But that doesn't change the fact that he inherited a near-impossible situation when he took over in December 2012.

Not only did Jones have to repair burned bridges with local high school players and coaches, he is still having to overcome huge roster deficiencies. 

Aside from UT's obvious talent gulf last year, the Vols now must face a dearth of experience over the next two seasons. They will rely on freshmen on the lines of scrimmage because of Dooley's recruiting misses, including an entire '12 class inexplicably devoid of a single offensive lineman.

Twenty-one players from the 2011-12 recruiting classes left the program prior to the completion of their eligibility.

Essentially, that means UT is down an entire recruiting class. 

A Closer Look: Why UT Is Devoid of Depth and Experience
Year Coach/Recruiter Signees Early Departures Notes
2011 Derek Dooley 27 11 Tiny Richardson left for NFL
2012 Derek Dooley 22 10 Cordarrelle Patterson left for NFL
2013 Dooley/Butch Jones 22 2 None

247Sports.com

While the positive side of that roster-flip means Jones was able to bring in 32 prospects in a talent-rich 2014 class ranked seventh nationally by 247Sports, the negative is there are few upperclassman on the roster.

Tennessee will have just 12 scholarship seniors in 2014. Thirty of the 59 healthy scholarship players who participated in spring drills were doing so for the first time as collegians.

Numbers like that aren't conducive to playing a schedule that consists of Utah State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Alabama and Missouri.

"I thought as a coaching staff and support staff, we did a great job of preparing for this past year's recruiting class," Jones said. "The ability to bring in 30-plus players will be an infusion of talent, competition, depth, but we need to keep doing that.

"We had to be extremely careful this past year in trying to fix all our ills, all our deficiencies in one recruiting class. We're not going to be able to do that. It takes time to develop that. The only way you can address that is develop your current players and keep recruiting. We have needs across the board at every single position in this (2015) class still."

Jones won't use any of these facts as excuses for losing. He spoke of changing a defeatist culture by "earning the right to win," which is done through a daily commitment by every individual on the team.

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The players have to work hard, and Jones is putting in long hours to further close the gap between the program's current state and where it needs to get to compete for championships.

It is a long process. But the path to getting there can only be found between the lines of the entries in his three-ring daily planner. 

Call a recruit here, host an unofficial visitor there. Review progress on player workouts. Take advantage of the coach-player film room time now mandated by the NCAA. Peek at some practice film. Call another recruit.

Details. Details. Details. 

Jones preaches it to his players, then he puts it into practice in his own daily routine.

It's the only way an impatient coach can fill the interim between what has to happen now and what he is convinced will happen in the future—winning, and lots of it.

"We're not going to cut any corners," Jones said. "Short-term fixes only pan out for one or two years. We're going to do this thing right. We're not just add-water, ready-made, stick-it-in-the-microwave.

"We’re going through a building process, but I see monumental strides taking place each and every day. This is a special place. There is only one Tennessee. I'm as excited and encouraged as I've ever been, and that ball of momentum is getting bigger and bigger and bigger."

 

Brad Shepard is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Brad on Twitter here: 

@Brad_Shepard

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