Butch Jones vows to make UT destination for state's top football recruits

Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 11:44pm

There’s nothing Butch Jones can do to change what happened Nov. 17. That’s the day Vanderbilt whipped the University of Tennessee 41-18.

The Volunteers' new football coach has set his sights, however, on Feb. 6 — national signing day. His goal is to reverse a trend in recruiting that was mirrored on the field nearly a month ago.

“Let me make no mistake that we are going to win first and foremost with the great state of Tennessee,” Jones said Friday at his introductory press conference. “We have tremendous high school coaches in this state. We are the state institution and we will own our state.

“We are going to be at every high school in the state and our players are going to understand what is to wear the power T, they're going to understand what it is to represent their home institution. I take great pride in that.”

Tennessee began its search for a new football coach in earnest on Nov. 18. One day after that loss to Vanderbilt, Derek Dooley was fired after having won just 15 games in three seasons.

Athletics director Dave Hart settled on Jones late last week. In his first public act in his new position the 44-year-old who won 65 percent of his games in six seasons as a Football Bowl Subdivision head coach (three each at Central Michigan and Cincinnati) talked at length about recruiting and his aspirations in that regard.

“I've recruited all over,” Jones said. “I recruited the state of Tennessee when I was at West Virginia [as wide receivers coach] so I've been here before. … Recruiting is a people business so I want the best teachers and best recruiters no matter where we have to go to get them. I do think it's important that we have some coaches that know the lay of the land, but I really think if you're a great recruiter, you can recruit anywhere because it's all relationship based.”

He never mentioned Vanderbilt or its second-year coach, James Franklin, specifically. However, recruiting analysts see the opportunity for UT to fall behind on the recruiting trail as it did on the field.

ESPN.com’s current rankings for 2013 has Vanderbilt ranked 17th with commitments from 21 players. Tennessee is 28th with 18 commitments. Similarly, Rivals.com has Vanderbilt at 15th with Tennessee at 24th while Scout.com has them closer — Vanderbilt 22nd, and Tennessee 25th.

Even last year, when the Commodores made a bowl game for the second time in four years while Tennessee lost its final two games and was not eligible, the Volunteers still attracted a more highly regarded group of players.

Last season Scout.com ranked Dooley’s final recruiting class 25th, 20 spots ahead of Vanderbilt. Rivals had Tennessee at No. 17, 12 spots ahead of Vanderbilt. The Sporting News had Tennessee and Vanderbilt at 17th and 20th, respectively.

“You can look at our facilities and look at our ability to attract an upper-echelon student-athlete to come to school here,” Jones said. “You can look at the opportunity to play in front of over 100,000 fans every gameday. I think the place speaks for itself. Obviously, we understand the tradition that is associated with this program.”

If the new coach and his staff, which is being assembled, is going to make gains before national signing day there is little time to waste. College programs currently have one more week of contact before a dead period begins Dec. 17 and continues through Jan. 3.

“Because of the recruiting calendar, we'll have a long week,” Jones said. “I'll make contact with prospective student-athletes and work to solidify a recruiting class, and there will be some challenges involved. Plus, I want to meet with every individual. I want to talk to them and allow them to get to know me. It'll be a busy week.”

It will be the start of a battle for in-state talent the likes of which has not existed until only recently.

"I've worked for a lot of great head coaches and with every coach I've come in contact with, if you can recruit you can recruit,” Jones said. “It doesn't matter what school you come from or where in the country. Recruiting is selling. … It's relationships.

“I've recruited all over the country. We're going to go where the best football is.”

7 Comments on this post:

By: joe41 on 12/10/12 at 8:47

To say that UT is the home institution of the state of Tennessee is ludicrous. There are several great universities in Tennessee. To single one out is preposterous. UT has distinguished itself as a place where athletes are constantly in trouble with the law. If Butch Jones can reverse that trend, then it is an admirable goal. Butch Jones followed a great coach at the last two institutions (Brian Kelly). We will see what he can do on his own. But don't try to sell the idea that UT is the only school in Tennessee. There are several others that probably rank higher.


By: joe41 on 12/10/12 at 9:17

UT used to give $6 Million to academics, however, mismanagement in the athletics department frittered that money away. Now they want you, the state of Tennessee taxpayer to make up the difference. YOU wqill be responsible for that $6 million.


By: jonw on 12/10/12 at 1:25

41, you are really on a roll today. You might be interested in knowing that U.T. has been one of the very few schools in the country that the athletic dept has ever donated to the academic side. Most have always been consumers of institution funds.
The money “was committed under different circumstances” and athletics now needs the money to stabilize its own budget in the midst of a football-coaching search. It has been a gift, not an obligation.

The school will continue to look for donations and endowments to continue the scholarships and graduate fellowships athletics had been funding, UT will honor all commitments made to students.
The state of Tennessee taxpayer has NOT been asked to make up the difference. When better days arrive the contribution will restart.
Maybe you will also have a better day some time in the future.

By: joe41 on 12/10/12 at 2:31

I am having a great day today. Perhaps you will live to see UT rank better in the realm of academics. Right now they are not faring well.

By: joe41 on 12/10/12 at 3:20

And another thing, "the Volunteers still attracted a more highly regarded group of players.". Why did they not produce?


By: gm0168 on 12/10/12 at 4:33

Love your posts Joe. Couldn't agree more.....UT is an embattled school academically and athletically. And I couldn't be happier!! I can't stand anything to do with that hell hole known as the "Flagship School of the State." That's comical both on paper and in reality......I hope their woes athletically continue, but I wish the best for the students who decided in was in their best interest academically to attend U-TAY.

By: 4gold on 12/10/12 at 6:46

UT complaining they can't compete because academics are too high makes me laugh. UT and Auburn were called on the carpet for graduating 5% of their athletes. They were the two worst i the SEC. If UT did get a higher rated class they didnt perform becuase by the time they were senors they ony had two in school of a class of 22 recruits. They all flunked out or were tossed out for criminal activity or rules violations.

I think Butch Jones looks like white man headed for a face plant. A clone of Derick Dooley with less personality. If his lies about growing up in Michigan wanting to watch UT football are not any more convincing when he goes recruiting. Kids will see right through him. Can you say Rocky Flop?

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!