Coach Jones meets local Vol fans
by RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Jun 09, 2013 | 2065 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE head football coach Butch Jones spoke to a capacity crowd of Vols fans at the Bradley Central High School Center for the Performing Arts Friday evening. Banner photo, RICHARD ROBERTS
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE head football coach Butch Jones spoke to a capacity crowd of Vols fans at the Bradley Central High School Center for the Performing Arts Friday evening. Banner photo, RICHARD ROBERTS
Tennessee football fans braved the rainy weather in droves Friday to listen to first-year head coach Butch Jones talk about the team of Volunteers he and his staff are working to build in Knoxville.

As he has since he took the controls of the UT football program, Jones connected with the fans and again exuded total confidence in the team, his staff and the plan to take Tennessee back to prominence.

"I've been to Cleveland before and obviously it's a very, very special place. The turnout tonight reaffirms the importance and magnitude of Tennessee football and it's great people. Obviously, it's been a great, great night," said Jones of the enthusiastic audience.

"We have the greatest fan base in the country. It's a very passionate fan base. You come out tonight and see the support, it's very important for our football program as we continue to build it brick by brick and to share the vision of what's going on at the University of Tennessee."

Jones, who was in town courtesy of the Sunrise Rotary, told the packed house at the Bradley Central High School’s Center for the Performing Arts, he is building the program brick by brick on the field and off the field.

He spoke with pride about the team 2.80 grade point average registered by the Vols last semester, but quickly added the goal is to be at a 3.0 GPA team in the near future.

Jones also said the recruiting process includes talks with friends and teammates of prospective recruits and searches on social media to help determine the character of every potential Volunteer.

Part of his brick-by-brick theory included recruiting the right people and getting those people in the right place under a never ending process of building and improvement.

"I think the big thing is continuing to build. We have to focus on the process. We can't concern ourselves with the end result right now. We're building a national championship caliber football program," said Jones.

"We have a group of young men who are very, very prideful and very proud of the University of Tennessee. How do you build a program? You recruit the right student athlete and you develop your players. That's always been the formula for success."

Currently, one area athlete is listed on the Tennessee roster. Former Bradley Central Bear offensive tackle Austin Sanders has met Jones, but has yet to take part in a practice led by the new coach.

"I won’t have a chance to work with him until August. But, I've seen him and obviously we are very, very excited about him. He has a very bright future. We are very proud that he is a Vol," said Jones of the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Mr. Tennessee Football Lineman award winner.

Jones also talked about the training the Volunteers have recently received from the Navy Seals, which includes sessions on leadership and what it takes to be successful in every aspect of football and life.

"It's just leadership. It's bringing a team together. It's team building and leadership exercises and really teaching them what leadership entails and continuing to educate them as part of our Vol For Life Program," he said of the extra curricular training.

Jones also expressed his passion to build a program as strong and dominant as Tennessee’s arch rival Alabama.

What changes will Jones bring to Knoxville that past coaches have not brought?

Jones said he is not particularly concerned with that aspect of his new job, his interest lies primarily in building back the football program at Tennessee.

"All I can speak for is our program. It's a mentality. It's the pride in who we are. It's a style of play. It's a team chemistry, it's execution and it's discipline. All the pillars to winning, the formula for winning, the plan to winning. That's the big thing we've really concentrated on," he said.

Right now, training for the Volunteers is not being led by Tennessee coaches since it is hands off time for coaches. Summer progress won't be fully known until the team comes back in August. Until then, it will be up to the players themselves to progress and learn as much as possible about the new coach and what he has in store for the program.

"They are making progress, but again it's a player-led football team right now. I'm very excited to see the end result when they come back in August. Right now we continue to be a work in progress," said Jones.

During his first spring training as Tennessee head coach, Jones was able to install about one-third of the offense he eventually hopes to slide into the playbook. His timetable for installing his entire system depends on what kind of progress the team can make and how fast they can learn what is handed to them.

"As soon as we can continue to execute the base stuff we will continue to graduate and move on. But, obviously, there is a big difference from spring football to training camp and getting ready to play a season," he said. "You're installation schedules are accelerated. So you have more meeting time and you have training camp to prepare. We will have our full offense in, but right now we have to worry about being an execution based offense."

"I don't know if it's frustration, but rivalries are what make the pageantry in college football. Obviously, our rivalry with Alabama is very, very important and coupled with the great job coach Saban has done with their football program I think adds to it as well. It's been embedded in Alabama fans and Tennessee fans, that great rivalry. I understand the magnitude and the importance of that rivalry. But, again that's what makes college football special."

As far as his relationship with the Crimson Tide coach, Jones said he has spoken with Saban for a short time, but admitted he has followed the style and success of the coach of the national champions.

"You always want to look to people who have been successful. Obviously, his body of work speaks for itself. There is similar background as far as the state of Michigan and the state of West Virginia. We've talked briefly, but not a lot. I've followed his coaching style from a distance," he said.

As far as emulating the style of Saban and the Tide, the Tennessee coach said the Volunteers will do what the Volunteers do and being concerned only with continued improvement and growth.

"I think the big thing for us is focusing on what we can control. What can we control? We can control our preparation, our toughness, the way we prepare. It's all about us and the way we can develop our football program," said the coach. "I think it comes down to worrying about ourselves and creating the product and style of play we want to play with."

He also said his visit to Cleveland has nothing to do with Saban's scheduled trip to Athens next week.

"This has kind of been on the books for a very long period of time. I understand the passion that the Cleveland area has. This has been set up for a while. You have to look to tonight and the showing on a Friday night of coming out with a packed house is very, very special," he said.

"We're the state institution, this is Tennessee. It's an opportunity to come and share some time with our great fan base here in Cleveland. I don't concern myself with anything else. All I know is it's an opportunity to come and really sell our vision and get a chance to meet our fans."

Since arriving in Knoxville, Jones has enjoyed immediate recruiting success and has the Volunteers at the top of the 2014 heap. Still, Jones insisted recruiting rankings have little to do with the ultimate success of the product he is working to develop, it is more about putting the right person in the right position to lead the team forward.

"It's not about rankings, it's finding the right fit for the University of Tennessee. Every college football program has its profile. The big thing is finding the right people that are going to be able to lead this football program going forward," he said.

Jones said the Vol Nation can expect a system that promises to deliver a quality commodity to the long suffering fan base. That plan includes staying strong and focused and working very hard to make the Tennessee brand a top shelf product.

"I think staying the course, not deviating, having a plans to win and following that plan and not compromising (is what people can expect). Will it take some work? Absolutely, but we're not going to flinch and we're going to keep working hard," he said.