Anonymous coaches gave quotes on Tennessee football, Jeremy Pruitt and Butch Jones recently. Here’s what one missed about the Volunteers.
As they generally do, Athlon Sports ran a story with quotes from anonymous coaches on SEC schools earlier this week. Most of them for Tennessee football were positive, including praise for Jarrett Guarantano, the receivers the secondary and the young talent.
However, one anonymous coach gave a very surprising quote on the Vols, rehashing Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt in the process. It was revealing more than anything, showing this person was not adept at understanding exactly what the state of the program was.
This coach seemed to insinuate that Jones got a bad rap and was not getting the credit he deserved in his five years as head coach of the Tennessee football program. Here’s the full quote if you want to see it.
"“Butch Jones did a better job recruiting than what they’re telling media. The players he brought in are still playing the bulk of the time, and not a lot of the Pruitt recruits have broken past them on the depth chart, though that could change this year. They’ve recruited well so far for the system Jeremy wants.”"
Sorry, but this quote is utterly ridiculous. Of course the 2018 Vols would have the bulk of their depth chart made up of Butch Jones recruits! He was a first-year head coach who had only been able to secure half a recruiting class for 2018.
At that point, only 17 players on the entire team were signed by Pruitt, and one of them, Brandon Kennedy, suffered a season-ending injury against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Another, J.J. Peterson, could not get into the program until midway through the season.
By the way, seven of those 15 guys that he signed saw regular playing time, and when you include Kenned in the mix, half his signees earned a start last year. So the quote is already wrong and completely unfair.
On top of that, though, people who say this about Jones are missing what problems everybody had with him. Nobody criticized Jones’s recruiting for Tennessee football. All they criticized on the recruiting front was the fact that he would not adapt his system to the players he recruited.
Coaches should either adapt their schemes to the elite players they recruit, or they should recruit players who fit their system. But they can’t just blindly recruit top talent and not change their schemes every year. Jones did that, and it showed with a guy like Jalen Hurd not being a fit for his system. Even Urban Meyer tweaked his spread offense when he had Chris Leak.
The other criticisms of Jones had nothing to do with recruiting. One involved player development and their production or playing time not matching the offseason hype he gave them. Another involved his conditioning and going without a strength coach for a year, which was a major factor in the injury issues.
But the biggest criticism of Jones was his in-game management. Incompetent decision-making, including not knowing when to run and pass, not knowing who to start at quarterback, not knowing when to go for two and go for it on fourth down, and not knowing when to use timeouts and how to manage the clock, were all major factors in Jones’s downfall.
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Those things alone would have earned the Vols victories over the Florida Gators in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 and the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2016 and 2017. It also would have beaten the Vanderbilt Commodores in 2013, Oklahoma Sooners in 2015, Texas A&M Aggies in 2016, and Kentucky Wildcats in 2017.
All those losses came down to in-game mismanagement. So if you’re keeping score at home, that means rather than go 5-7, 7-6, 9-4, 9-4 and 4-6 before getting fired in 2017, Jones would have gone 7-5 (with a bowl game), 8-5, 11-2 (with an SEC East title), 11-2 (with an SEC East title) and would have been 7-3 in 2017.
Given that resume, there is no way he would have been fired. And that’s just if one of his flaws was fixed. So the idea that Jones didn’t get enough credit because he recruited well is ridiculous. He made utterly ridiculous in-game decisions for Tennessee football from the beginning, and that never got better.
Trying to save his legacy by giving him credit for the players he recruited is already somewhat wrong, but it also completely misses the mark on why he was fired. That’s why this quote is ridiculous and completely wrong. Jones is just a handful of in-game decisions from still being on Rocky Top and recruiting at a high level.