Dennis Dodd argues that Tennessee's Butch Jones is an underrated coach
Going against the popular, albeit unfounded, narrative that Butch Jones is currently on the hot seat in Knoxville, CBS Sports national college football writer Dennis Dodd recently made the argument that Tennessee’s head coach is underrated.
It’s easy to understand why some national pundits have suggested otherwise this offseason after the Vols failed to capture the SEC East title after coming into the season as the unquestioned favorite to finally advance to Atlanta under Jones. Despite an offseason of incredible hype, which appeared to be well founded as Tennessee started the season 5-0 and ranked in the Top 10 in the nation, the Vols sputtered down the stretch and suffered embarrassing losses on the road at South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
As Dodd writes, those failures appear to have masked all the progress Jones has made on Rocky Top heading into his fifth season as head coach. Back-to-back Top 25 finishes, three consecutive bowl wins (not achieved since the Peyton Manning era), and proving he can both identify talent and get them to the NFL.
Dodd also notes that only five current college head coaches have won more conference championships than Jones’ four titles: Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Gary Patterson, and Chris Peterson. In addition to that stat, Dodd points out that only four active college coaches have won an SEC title, and two of them no longer coach in the league: Saban, Meyer, Gus Malzahn, and Mark Richt.
The CBS Sports writer spoke to Jones this week at the SEC’s spring meetings regarding his perception and the thought that he can’t win enough big games at Tennessee.
“That’s really a great question,” Jones said according to Dodd. “I think we live in a world today where it’s not, ‘What you’ve done for me lately,’ it’s, ‘What can you do for me next?'”
Perhaps Jones’ most impressive achievement at Tennessee thus far has been his ability to get his players to the NFL, something he had already proven at his previous stops after coaching former No. 1 overall draft pick Eric Fisher, and NFL All-Pros JJ Watt and Antonio Brown. With his first full recruiting class now cycled through the program, UT sent six draft picks to the NFL. The Tennessee coach was pleased to point out that fact to Dodd.
“Before we were selling a dream to these recruits,” Jones said. “Now we’re able to sell reality and results.”
That aspect of his program hasn’t been lost on recruits. With the state of Tennessee continuing to grow, which has resulted in more and more elite talent to recruit inside the Volunteer State, Jones’ message is hitting home with prospects. The Vols currently have the nation’s No. 10 recruiting class, ranked No. 2 in the SEC, with 11 prospects committed to playing on Rocky Top — seven of which are in-state commits.
While Jones has yet to lead Tennessee to any titles on the field, his coaching history — much like his history of talent evaluation and development — suggests he’s capable of delivering for the Vols. Provided, of course, the fan base doesn’t run him off beforehand.