Sticking to the script: Tennessee denies the warmth of Butch Jones' seat
HOOVER, Ala. — Is Tennessee coach Butch Jones really on the hot seat? Not if you ask his players.
The Volunteer contingent couldn’t escape questions regarding the status of the program’s leader during Monday’s opening round of SEC Media Days. While their responses seemed scripted, they were unanimous in their support of their coach when asked to comment on Jones’ status.
Senior defensive lineman Kendal Vickers went so far as to call the hot seat talk regarding his coach “a little disrespectful” during his media availability.
“I think it’s a little disrespectful. I know when I got here, I was 5-7,” Vickers said. “I was redshirted, things were bad. For us to win three straight bowl games, us being 9-4, like I said, we haven’t won every game, but we go out there to win every game.
“He has changed this program so much, he’s done everything he possibly (can) to change the culture at Tennessee — and he’s done that. So it’s disrespectful, but we don’t worry about that, we try to keep all the noise outside. It is what it is.”
Jashon Robertson, the senior leader of the offensive line group, expressed his belief that Jones successfully supports the players in his program and they, in turn, reciprocate the love.
“We aren’t paying too much attention to the outside noise,” Robertson said. “As far as coach Jones, he really appreciates all the things we are doing and we feel the same way about him.”
While Robertson’s initial support seemed genuine, he had some familiar stats to back up his feelings regarding the job Jones has done at Tennessee.
“In that same sense, we are one of three teams who have back-to-back 9-game win seasons, and also, we’ve won three consecutive bowl games — and that hasn’t been done at Tennessee in 20 years,” Robertson continued.
When it was Butch’s turn to speak to the media, the Tennessee coach repeated some familiar stats echoed by his players.
“We’re one of only three programs that have won nine games two years in a row. We’ve been very fortunate to have three straight bowl victories, first time in 20 years in our great program’s history and tradition,” Jones said to the assembled media in Hoover. “There’s so much more out there to be accomplished, and we’ve only started. And that’s what I like about this year’s football team, is there they’re very, very driven, very, very motivated.”
Jones went on to say that he doesn’t concern himself with the negativity that’s out there, particularly on social media.
“I don’t ever concern myself with that. We have a plan, we are following that plan and that’s kinda the world we live in,” Jones continued. “If you find yourself even spending one second of your time worrying about that, investing about that, it’s taking away from your other priorities that you have.”
While Jones claims his Tennessee program doesn’t spend valuable time worrying about negativity, they clearly worked on their talking points leading up to Media Days.