Butch Jones, the new University of Tennessee head football coach, brings a record of success to a program that is in desperate need of a turnaround. After three tumultuous years under former head coach Derek Dooley, Jones will try and do in Rocky Top just what he did in his two prior coaching stops—win games and plenty of them.
Jones has six years of head-coaching experience in the college ranks, split evenly between Central Michigan and Cincinnati. At Central Michigan, Jones took over for Brian Kelly—the current head coach at Notre Dame—and went 27-13. At Cincinnati, where Jones also followed Kelly, he compiled a record of 23-14. In four of those six seasons Jones’ teams gained at least a share of the conference title.
That’s certainly a stellar record, but now Jones must make that success translate to the country’s toughest college football conference, the SEC.
Jones wasn’t the first choice of Tennessee, in fact he wasn’t even the second choice. According to reports, both Louisville head coach Charlie Strong and former NFL coach Jon Gruden turned down the job before Tennessee settled on Jones. That has led many Vols’ supporters to view the hire with some suspicion.
In any event, Tennessee was in desperate need of a shakeup following one of the worse three-year runs in the program’s history. Dooley was able recruit good talent to Knoxville, but it never turned into on-field results.
Jones in all likelihood will have the talent at his disposal to be competitive in the SEC, or at the very least, become bowl eligible following this recent dry spell. It will likely come down to his ability to keep several key players that could go high in next year’s NFL draft to remain in Tennessee and forgo their remaining eligibility. Most notable of those are quarterback Tyler Bray (3,612 passing yards, 34 TDs), and wide receivers Justin Hunter (73 catches, 1,083 yards, 9 TDs) and Cordarrelle Patterson (46 catches, 778 yards, 5 TDs).
If Jones is able keep those three in Knoxville, the Vols could become a team to follow next year as you formulate your college football picks.