Is Tennessee football head coach Butch Jones to blame for all the injuries the Volunteers have suffered throughout this season? He just might be.
The minute people see this headline, they might fairly read it as piling on Butch Jones and blaming him for everything now. After all, Vols fans are already blaming him for the three-game losing streak, the lack of championships over the past four years, and the play-calling on Saturday.
All of those are justifiable.
But injuries? Aren’t those just a result of bad luck? Well, they might not be.
Let’s start with the biggest loss of the year for the Vols, Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Reeves-Maybin got hurt on a special teams play. However, the real question is why in the heck did Jones have Reeves-Maybin on a special teams play to begin with?
The same thing happened last year when Curt Maggitt went down for the season against the Oklahoma Sooners. Wouldn’t Jones have learned his lesson then?
Don’t put your star defenders in on punt coverage! That’s common sense 101!
However, there’s another decision he made as well. And that decision could have led to many of the other injuries. It goes back to the winter.
Hidden in all the offseason drama following the Tennessee football program, including the hires of Bob Shoop and Larry Scott, the Title IX lawsuit, and the returning starters, Jones made a huge change in the conditioning program.
Dave Lawson had been the strength coach with the program since 2007. But Jones slowly eased him out and had him full replaced this year by Michael Szerszen, the associate strength coach.
We already thought the Vols had suffered too many injuries last year. But this year, it’s been complete chaos with players dropping like flies.
And maybe that change had something to do with it. After all, we can’t just attribute it to a string of bad luck anymore.
The Vols just came off a bye week and got everybody healthy, but on Saturday they suffered more injuries in the secondary and another season-ending injury at defensive tackle.
That doesn’t just keep happening unless you’re the most unlucky team in America. And it’s hard to believe that’s the case with the Vols.
Perhaps we should go back and take a look at Jones’s decision to replace Lawson with Szerszen. Lawson had been there since 2007, and while last year was bad, things seemed to go pretty smoothly for the most part until then.
We all thought, like he did with Shoop, Jones was just setting a higher standard in bringing in Szerszen. But it looks to be a terrible decision so far.
And combining that with the special teams decisions, it’s fair to say that Jones deserves some blame for the slew of injuries the Vols have faced this year.