The State of Tennessee Football Address


Disappointed? Absolutely. Giving up? Never. And that is the same mentality the entire fan base should adopt. Tennessee has led by double digits in three consecutive games and come away empty. It hurts. There is no question that Tennessee’s inept second half against Arkansas has put Butch Jones under the microscope. With Georgia and Alabama looming, the Vols are staring 2-5 in the face.

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Midway through his third season at Tennessee,  Jones is 14-16 overall and 5-13 against the SEC. If ESPN put up a blind resume of his coaching statistics – you would point at the TV and say that guy has to go. Tennessee is my alma mater and, quite frankly, I’m amazed at how many people are calling for Butch’s head (and beginning to believe Clay Travis’ 10 Dumbest Fan Bases In America article is on point). These are probably the same people that are asking for Dormady to start immediately while Dobbs moves to wide receiver. Genius move. NOT.

Remember when Butch took over? It was a complete dumpster fire. He was hired late and hardly had time to put a full recruiting class together. This season he’s got HIS freshmen and sophomores. Freshmen will play like freshmen and the sophomores will turn the corner. Hey – the Vols still have some Dooley’s running around out there and time will heal those wounds.

The scrutiny that has been thrown out there this year is warranted solely due to the expectations that were placed on this program prior to the season. Yes, you can blame play-calling and game management as major factors to why we have the three losses we have. The fact of the matter is this is still a young team with an offensive line that is not yet SEC material and a defense that is most likely still huffing and puffing from the Arkansas game. Arkansas actually played like the team they were touted to be in the preseason – one with a seasoned QB, a proven running back in Alex Collins, and a beefy offensive line that’s average weight is more than any NFL team.

In my opinion, any college football coach is graded on the following, in order:

  1. Wins and Losses
  2. Recruiting
  3. Culture Change

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  • Butch has dominated 2 and 3 and that carries a lot of weight. He’s got spunk, he’s got passion, and although his record resembles Derek Dooley’s tenure to this point, that is something Dooley did not have (except in press conferences like this one) and made the decision to let him go extremely easy. You see, that is exactly where Butch is different. He’s a totally different breed. He’s the type of guy that makes you believe, makes you buy in to what he’s doing.

    Three years is the industry standard these days to be able to grade out a coach (and that is pushing it), yet if Butch is canned I would still find myself asking what could have been simply because I’ve seen too much progress related to numbers 2 and 3 listed above. That’s exactly why it’s not going to happen. My rule of thumb is you give someone 4 years regardless, and then re-evaluate (unless you are Illinois and/or literally can’t win games at all). Could he be a victim of the expectations he has created since his inception? No doubt, and that is exactly what’s happening. I’d rather have that than a mediocre coach with mediocre expectations. Butch Jones will not settle for mediocrity.

    He’s made progress, but a lot of work remains. His biggest win to date is still the 2014 South Carolina game. If things don’t get better, change could be made in other areas of the team. Mike DeBord and John Jancek have had questionable games on the coaching end as well. On defense, every time there is a chance to get off the field, Jancek seems to opt for a soft zone coverage without bringing some heat. On offense, DeBord hasn’t used his personnel like many thought he would. Jalen Hurd has been great, but Tennessee is loaded at receiver and should still take shots down the field even with a not-so-accurate Dobbs. Screen passes and intermediate routes can only last so long. Could it be that the Tennessee coaching staff as a whole just hasn’t leveled up to the tier that is required to succeed in the SEC? Perhaps, and time will certainly tell in that department.

    Butch Jones can’t run block for Jalen Hurd. He can’t pass block for Dobbs. He can’t replace Curt Maggitt. Players have to make plays. The one thing Butch Jones has done is change the perception of the program. You have to crawl before you can walk and you have to walk before you can run. The expectation was that we would be sprinting out of the gate. Here we are transitioning from a brisk walk to a light jog, if that. It’s been a humbling start and you’ve just got to deal with it. It doesn’t happen overnight.

    The Tennessee football team and fan base should take a page from Pat Summitt’s playbook when she said, “There will be no pity party, and I’ll make sure of that.”