Butch Jones misused a lot of talent as Tennessee football’s head coach. One huge victim of that was former Volunteers wide receiver Josh Smith.
It’s open season to bash former Tennessee football head coach Butch Jones. Fans, coaches and players, current and former, are all getting in on the action. The most recent player to get in on it was former Vols wide receiver Josh Smith.
In an interview on The 5Star Preps podcast with Jesse Smithey, Smith diplomatically criticized Butch Jones, if that’s possible. He noted that Jones never seemed up front with him, but then he said he may have been the same way if he was in Jones’s situation.
It was an awkward thing to say the least. But what’s clear is that Smith was frustrated with Jones. And if you look at his career in Knoxville specifically, he is one of the most justified in being upset with Jones.
Now playing with the New Orleans Saints, it’s fitting that Smith is a teammate of Alvin Kamara. Kamara also has expressed some frustrations in the past about being underused. And most fans agree with him on that. But Smith was even a worse misuse of talent. Let’s go back for a minute.
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When Tennessee football dismissed slot receiver Alton ‘Pig’ Howard before the start of the 2015 season, Vols fans wondered who would fill that void. It ended up being Josh Smith, who settled into the role and became a breakout star.
That season, Smith, a local three-star product, was a redshirt sophomore after an injury in 2014. He caught 23 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns. That wasn’t much, but it was exactly what the Vols needed from their slot guy.
Smith also made the season-turning play. With a 2-3 record and down 24-3 to the Georgia Bulldogs in the first half, he caught a fourth-down pass behind him from Joshua Dobbs and took it to the house for a touchdown. That play sparked a comeback that game which turned around the season.
Heading into 2016, the hype behind Smith was larger than ever. He was supposed to break out into an elite slot guy with Joshua Dobbs throwing him the ball. Instead, he got banged up. But to make matters worse, Butch Jones began rotating him in with Tyler Byrd. In fact, Smith only started six games that year.
No disrespect to Byrd, but that was Smith’s position to have. He had a rhythm with Dobbs and needed to keep that going. The result of what Jones did was a significant drop in production. Smith only had 97 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Things got worse in 2017. Smith only played six games and caught five passes for 43 yards and no touchdowns. He suffered a collarbone injury before the start of that season, and his season came to an end by October. So he gets a break for what happened in 2017.
However, there was no reason for the gross underuse of him in 2016. Jones had a reliable safety blanket for his deadly dual-threat quarterback to use, and he refused to let them get into a rhythm. This was part of his philosophy of rotating receivers as much as possible. It bit the Vols hard and was part of the reason for a couple of their losses.
Now, Smith is in the NFL, but he wasn’t drafted. Again, that is partly due to how Tennessee football used him in college. And as a result, he is right to be extremely upset. We’ll never know until we see his NFL career, but it’s possible he’s another guy Butch Jones did not handle right.