When Butch Jones was hired back in December the questioned asked by most Vol fans immediately was “who is Butch Jones”?
Jones’ name had been casually mentioned as a coaching possibility at Tennessee a few times, but his name was pushed down the list by what were considered more attractive options at the time. Names like Jon Gruden, Mike Gundy, and even Jim Mora Jr. superseded the mention of Jones.
Once Butch Jones was announced as the new football coach at Tennessee, Vol fans clamored to their computers to learn more about the new coach, much as they did back in 2010 when Derek Dooley was announced as coach.
The thought of having to “learn” about a new coach frightened most Vol fans and understandably so.
In 2010 when Tennessee fans were googling Derek Dooley they found a less than impressive resume highlighted by a career losing record. Pretty much all they saw was a relationship with Nick Saban and a very famous last name in the world of coaching.
Vol fans were probably expecting to see more of the same when they started digging for information on Butch Jones, but they were pleasantly surprised when they found a career winning record, conference championships and an unwavering enthusiasm. This video that was passed around Twitter seemed to instantly calm the masses.
Jones instantly had positive momentum as the new head coach once fans became familiar with him and embraced him. So far he’s really only suffered two setbacks in the eyes of fans.
One was with his coaching staff.
Fans voiced displeasure over the lack of Vol connections on the staff and no “big” named assistants. This of course was magnified when former fan favorite Jay Graham departed his alma mater for Florida State.
Patience is everything.
What was once viewed as a weakness is actually a strength. Jones has installed a staff with the same work ethic and character that drives himself. The staff blends well together and they all share the same vision. Sometimes, actually all the time, chemistry and philosophy is more important than a splash hire or big name.
The other perceived weakness was recruiting.
On national signing day Jones failed to close on lifelong Vol fan Vonn Bell, as well as some other potential recruits.
The truth is that Jones never had a chance with Bell. The fact that Tennessee was even in the equation for Bell’s commitment is a testament in itself to the recruiting prowess of Jones. The bridge between Vonn Bell and Tennessee was burned by the previous staff. Bell’s father said that Jones closed a lot of ground, but in the end there was nothing Jones could’ve done different.
Jones did, however, lock down a couple of important, previously undecided recruits in Marquez North and Josh Dobbs.
Over the past couple of months Butch Jones and his staff have completely dispelled the notion that they’re not strong recruiters.
The 2014 Tennessee recruiting class has catapulted to 6th in recruiting rankings (247Sports) with the additions of 5-star RB Jalen Hurd, 4-star DB Todd Kelly JR and most recently 4-star DB D’Andre Payne.
Payne committed to Tennessee on Wednesday, becoming the seventh commitment for the 2014 class.
Jones has changed the entire recruiting atmosphere around Knoxville in his short time as head coach.
Stanton Truitt, a 3-star ATH from Monroe, GA, told us last month that prior to the hiring of Jones he had no communication with Tennessee, despite being heavily interested.
It those kinds of things that Jones is overcoming. In such a short time he’s mended relationships and made a splash in recruiting.
Butch Jones has went above and beyond the expectations of Vol fans in a short period of time. Jones and the team still have a long ways to go before they can prove themselves on the field, where it ultimately matters.
With the way we’re talking about the Vol’s momentum every week those on the field expectations might be blown away as well.