Butch Jones has officially held the position of head coach at the University of Tennessee for over six months. In that span, Jones has already made excellent progress to the downtrodden Volunteer football program.
Though it is too soon to put a grade on the hire made by athletic director Dave Hart and the Tennessee athletic department, Jones’ first offseason on Rocky Top has definitely caught the attention of the Vols’ passionate fan base. The first instance of optimism felt by UT fans toward the newly hired coach occurred during his press conference.
Following the firing of former coach Derek Dooley in November, many names were brought up amongst the fan base, with Jones’ rarely mentioned. When news broke of Jones’ hire, fans seemed to want more of their once dominant program.
However, the coach gained an increase in support from a strong press conference in which he professed his love of the Tennessee football program on multiple occasions, calling the Vols’ head coaching position his “dream job.” Fans still spurned by the infamous Lane Kiffin resignation could at least rest easier knowing they had a coach who was fully invested in their program, despite Jones’ short tenures at previous schools.
Jones and his new look coaching staff hit the ground running on the recruiting trail in an attempt to salvage the 2013 recruiting class. Tennessee managed to gain commitments from 11 players following Jones’ hire, while gaining strong consideration from players that were previously uninterested in the program during the Dooley regime.
Tennessee has seen even greater success in the 2014 recruiting class. Currently, Tennessee ranks No. 3 nationally amongst teams, according to Rivals.com. Jones has already received commitments from five prospects with a 4-star rating on Rivals, which already matches the total from the previous class.
As Jones and his staff continued their success on the recruiting trail, the Tennessee fan base saw an even greater increase in optimism of the hire. The final instance of Jones bringing a positive change is best displayed through the impressive attendance during Tennessee’s spring game.
The Vols had a total of 61,706 fans in attend their annual “Orange & White game” last month. Tennessee ranked third in the SEC for highest attendance for a spring game this year, trailing only Auburn and reigning national champion Alabama. This is expected to bring a vast improvement in attendance during the regular season after the struggling Vols failed to fill up their 102,455-capacity stadium in 2012.
Jones has given the Tennessee football program a much-needed face-lift since taking over the reigns last December. Although time will truly tell whether the coach will have success in Knoxville, his first six months on the job have definitely been impressive and created a great deal of optimism amongst the Tennessee fan base.