Butch Jones hit all the tried and true press conference cliches on Friday afternoon in Knoxville, saying that Tennessee is his dream job and the best college football program in America, and that his team will have attack in all three phases.
But it was when Butch Jones went off the traditional script that his introductory press conference as Tennessee's newest head coach got truly interesting.
Jones officially accepted the Vols' head coaching job this morning, and informed his outgoing team shortly thereafter. "When I told them I had accepted the position at Tennessee, they all started clapping and applauding," he said. This is a stark contrast to the taste his predecessor, Brian Kelly, reportedly left in the mouths of Bearcats players.
Jones was hotly pursued by Colorado for its vacancy, going as far to have Denver Broncos head coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning urge Jones to ink with the Buffs. "Four days ago got a text from Peyton Manning on Colorado," Jones said. "He said, 'It's hard to sell a Tennessee guy on the University of Colorado'. I said, 'Come on, I want to go to Tennessee!'"
It was well known that Tennessee offered the job to two other coaches before they offered it to Jones. When asked if that bothered him, Jones retorted, "Absolutely not. I think I was my wife's third choice and it's worked out for 20 years."
Jones and his staff will have to put their hard hats on, as a true reconstruction project awaits them at Tennessee. The Vols are in the midst of a 14-year SEC title drought and haven't posted a winning SEC record since 2007. Jones looks backward when to create a building block of his program. "Letter-winners have an open-door policy at any of our practices," he said. "They are welcome back at any time."
If he can get junior quarterback Tyler Bray and junior pass catchers Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson to return to school, Jones will have playmakers to work with. Even still, Jones urged players and fans alike to trust in a system that has brought him four conference championship and 50 wins in six seasons as a head coach. "The plan is invaluable if the players buy into it," he said.
On the field, Jones illustrated that he wants his team to play with discipline, to take care of the ball on offense and take it away on defense. Jones' shied away from saying his offense will be a spread, intimating that it implied finesse, but did say his defense will play with a four-man front. Which is much to the delight of junior defensive lineman Maurice Crouch.
Jones didn't get into specifics about hiring his staff, only stating that it will be the "best staff in America." He was asked about Tee Martin, the quarterback who led the Vols to the 1998 national championship and currently serves as the wide receivers coach at USC, saying "He's an individual that I plan to reach out to, but I plan to reach out to a lot of individuals."
What did Mr. Crouch have to say about Martin, you ask?
The press conference ended with Tennessee athletic director taking the mic and jokingly point out to Jones that the Vols' 2013 schedule includes road trips to Oregon, Alabama and Florida. The moment brought laughter to the room, but shed light on what a big excavation effort awaits Jones and his staff in Knoxville.