Butch Jones, head coach of University of Tennessee football, started this season with grand expectations of winning the SEC East. Unfortunately for the Vol Nation, those expectations were shattered early with three consecutive losses to Texas A&M, Alabama, and South Carolina, injuries, and a soul-crushing loss to Vanderbilt. Tennessee fans are beginning to question Butch Jones’ ability to lead Tennessee back to relevance and are begging for changes all across the board.
Injuries have plagued this Tennessee football team since the start of the season, at one point Tennessee was missing 16 players with key losses being Sutton, Reeves-Maybin, Berry, and Kirkland. Because of this historically bad statistic, there will be major changes happening to the Strength and Conditioning staff. This last season’s S&C coach is gone and Tennessee has their sights set on LA Rams coach, Rock Gullickson. Gullickson has earned the praise of many NFL players that he has worked with, hopefully he will be able to adjust his program for college ball. According to sources close to Tennessee football, this hire is very close to being a done deal.
The fan base has been calling for Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord’s position due to his lack of creativity in play calling and lackluster results despite Tennessee’s position at the top of the SEC stat wise. Tennessee quarterback, Joshua Dobbs, has a very impressive stat line with 26 passing TDs (1st SEC) connecting with junior receiver Josh Malone for 10 TDs (T-2nd SEC), 152.6 QBR (1st SEC), and 9 Rushing TDs (T-10th SEC). Though he will be missed dearly by the Vol Nation, his rumored replacement, freshman Jarrett Guarantano, has been improving his passing game drastically and is expected to take the field for Tennessee in the fall. Talent wise, the offense shouldn’t be taking too large of a hit with Alvin Kamara, Josh Malone, and Juan Jennings expected to return. Coach Jones and Mike Debord have discussed the possibility of sharing the Offensive Coordinator position with rumored Mark Helfrich (ex-HC Oregon) or Major Applewhite (OC Houston). According to Tennessee insiders, Helfrich is the leading candidate and is okay with sharing the co-offensive coordinator position.
Tennessee ended the season with historically bad defensive performances, allowing 1055 rushing yards in their final 3 games. Tennessee defense finished the regular season ranked #109 nationally out of 128 FBS teams. Bob Shoop was considered the best defensive coordinator in the nation prior to his tenure at Tennessee. Insiders with Tennessee football place the blame on Coach Jones not allowing Shoop to hire his own assistants and micromanaging Shoop’s responsibilities. There are reports that Jones has loosened his grasp over Shoop’s defense although nothing is locked in yet.
Butch Jones has made recruiting news once again with ESPN #1 5* recruit Trey Smith’s commitment. So far the recruiting class of 2017 for Tennessee is ranked #7 in the nation according to Rivals.com. The 2017 class consist of 10 – 4* players and a staggering 15 – 3* players. Note that recruiting rankings are used as a measurement and not a guarantee of success. Tennessee has done great work with the 3* players on its roster like Corey Vereen, Cam Sutton, and Josh Smith. Things are continuing to look up for Tennessee but only if Butch Jones can adapt and loosen his control over the program.