HOOVER, Ala. — Apparently Butch Jones is a persuasive guy. His Tennessee Volunteers compiled what Rivals rated the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class last winter, which is big deal for a once-proud program that has had one winning season — and that only 7-6 — since 2007. Ordinarily you’d look at such a class as a signal that better days are ahead, and they might well be.
Just not yet.
Jones appeared here Tuesday at the elongated SEC Media Days and ramped up the quantity of coach-speak by a hundredfold. He expounded on his team’s slogan — “The power of one” — without managing to make much sense of it. He spoke of “the great team chemistry” of his Vols, which sounded odd, given that these Vols just went 5-7 with five of those losses by two touchdowns or more, and given that Jones noted that his is “the only team in college football having to replace both the offensive and defensive interior lines.”
What Jones didn’t mention was Tennessee’s schedule, which is unmanageable. Phil Steele’s yearbook rates it the second-toughest in the nation, and no wonder: The Vols must play Oklahoma, Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt on the road and Utah State, Florida, Alabama and Missouri in Knoxville. If Tennessee goes 3-6 in those games, it will have done pretty darn well.
“We’re still going through the realities of building a college football program,” Jones said. Then: “There’s a difference between earning the right to win and hoping to win.”
Then he mentioned something about “the relevance and the the magnitude of the University of Tennessee,” and once upon a time there was real heft to the Big Orange. Then Philip Fulmer was pushed aside and Lane Kiffin hired and then Derek Dooley and then Jones, and now a mighty program has been reduced to watching the likes of Vandy and Mizzou climb above it in the SEC East.
“It’s only a matter of time,” Jones said, speaking of what he views as brighter tomorrows, and maybe he’s right. But not this year. Not with that schedule.
More Media Days fun and frolic:
From myajc.com: At 69, Spurrier can see success without SEC titles.
From myajc.com: Auburn’s Malzahn will have a tough time topping 2013.
From yesterday: SEC Media Days – way too much of a dull thing.