home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


July 14, 2015

Butch Jones


KEVIN TRAINOR: We're now joined by Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. We'll ask Coach Jones to make an opening comment, and then we'll take your questions.

COACH JONES: Good afternoon. Hope everyone had a great summer. It's great to see everyone. I want to start off by saying it truly is an honor and a privilege to be up here today representing the University of Tennessee and all of Vol Nation. With Tennessee football, obviously, we have a lot of positive energy, a momentum, and enthusiasm that's surrounding our football program right now. I think a lot of it is the by-product by the way in which we ended the season, going 4-1 and having our first Bowl victory since 2008. Obviously, our recent recruiting classes. Now, I want to make one thing clear. Contrary to reports, there were no back flips, and there were no somersaults, but I think in the world of college football, you're judged by wins and losses, but also you're judged by does your team overachieve or under achieve. And I thought last year's football team, team 118 overachieved. And being the youngest team in all of college football, not having any returning offensive linemen and defensive linemen, I'm really, really proud of our players. And for our seniors to leave the program with a Bowl victory and experience that, that's why you coach, and I am very, very proud of that. Now on to this year. This year's a little bit different. Obviously, the expectations have changed a little bit, but as we're all aware, when you're at the University of Tennessee, you always have high expectations. But this year is different for each and every player in our football program. But really that's what you want. You want the expectations to be exceptionally high. That's why they chose to come to Tennessee to play in a program that has high expectations. But the expectations will never be as high as they are internally, and we have very high expectations for this football team. But anything worthwhile really does take time to build. We're not just building a team, we're building a program. We all want success immediately. But over a long period of time, that's not really how sustained success works. The struggles, the adversities, the triumphs, the victories -- all the things that go into it, that's part of the building process. Also, part of that building process is learning how to win, and that's the most difficult thing in all of sport. I really think our players really learned how to win last year. They learned how to prepare. They learned how to take care of their bodies. They learned excellence in the classroom. They learned everything that it takes to prepare for opponent week in and week out. So our team now understands what it takes to win football games. Now the great thing for us is we expect a win. We just don't hope to win. Another source of pride at Tennessee has been our success in the classroom. We're coming off the two best semesters in program's history. This past spring we had 52 players with a 3.0 or above. When we came to Tennessee, we had 12. In two semesters we've had 98 players post a 3.0 or better, and that's become a very strong source of pride with us. Our players have been very focused and very determined. For this year's team, it's all about maturity. It's all about leadership. And it's all about health. Those are the three components that we have to take into consideration, and we just can't be a year older. We have to be a year better, and that's the responsibility of the coaching staff and every player in our football program. 64 percent of our roster has played one year of college football or less. So we need to continue to grow and mature. We have some unproven areas within our football program still. We're going to have to have many freshmen play vital roles to the success of this football team, but I've been very, very proud of our older players in the manner in which they have handled the younger players, getting them caught up to the standards, the expectations, and our style of play at Tennessee. We've had one change on our staff, and that's at the offensive coordinator position. We were able to hire Mike DeBord, and we already are seeing the benefits of the hiring of Mike DeBord. It's brought new energy, new ideas, obviously vast knowledge and experience. You couple that with the experience he had of working with two of the greatest game callers in all of football with Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz, Coach DeBord has been a great addition to our staff and to our football family. But we look forward to the many challenges that 2015 brings about, but also the many opportunities as well. Before I answer any questions, I'd also like to say thank you for all that you do to promoting this great game of football, and not just for the University of Tennessee and not just for college football, but for the Southeastern Conference as well. So I'll answer any questions you may have.

Q. Obviously, you guys are a trendy pick maybe to come up and win the SEC East this year. Missouri's won the last two. Do you feel like they're the team to beat in the division right now because they have won those last two titles?
COACH JONES: The great thing and most challenging thing of the SEC is you never know what a long season is going to bring about. I always tell our football team this, the team that can manage the natural adversities that a long football season brings about will be the team that wins championships in December. Obviously, Missouri has won our side for the years that you just spoke about. They have our respect. But everyone has our respect because you never know which is going to be the team that gets hot. We have so much talent in this conference. So it's going to be a challenge week in and week out for us. We just have to focus on what we can control, and that's our work ethic, that's our capacity for work, that's our mentality, our style of play. So really it becomes more about ourselves.

Q. Coach, last year a lot of questions about quarterback. This year you come back, you have Josh Dobbs, who seems to be established as a starting quarterback. How much easier does it make your job knowing that you have Dobbs there?
COACH JONES: Well, it makes it easier in terms of he's proven himself. We understand what we're getting with Josh, and we always talk about consistency and performance. And we know what we're getting with Josh day in and day out, week in and week out. He's done a tremendous job. We challenged him this spring to be what we call a CEO quarterback, an individual who owns the team, who owns the offense, that can solve problems on his own, that can provide the leadership and stability that you expect from that position. So we're excited about him. One of the unproven areas of our football team is who our No. 2 quarterback is going to be, and we know it's going to be a freshman. Josh has done a great job of mentoring our freshmen. Obviously, having Quinten Dormady coming enroll early really, really helped him move forward as well and get the comfort level with his teammates and our offense as well.

Q. I know you don't play Arkansas for a while in the season, but it's going to be the first time Tennessee's played him since you and Bret were both there. Did you guys spend extra time on Arkansas in the summer? And just how you see that game because it looks like you guys are on pretty similar trajectories?
COACH JONES: I've known Bret for a long time, and he's a good friend. I respect what he's done there and what he's building there. It's going to be a great challenge because they're a little bit of different style offensively, and so they're going to challenge your toughness on each and every snap. So uncommon opponents, we haven't played them in a while, we do spend extra time. But at the end of the day, it's going to be about your toughness and your execution, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's been able to do there in a short period of time.

Q. How big was that Alabama game for Josh Dobbs and his confidence?
COACH JONES: I think that helped it, and I think also the Alabama game also helped his teammates around him with confidence. You look at a young man who we started the season off and his idea was he was going to be redshirted, and it's a great illustration to younger players that you never know when your time is going to be called. And when your time is called, you have to make sure you put all the work and preparation into that to take advantage of that opportunity. Josh is one of those individuals that continued to work, work on his fundamentals, understanding the knowledge-base of the offense, and when he received that opportunity, he took the most of it. So I think is proves something to him, but also it proved a lot to his teammates.

Q. Coach, your program made a change to Nike. How big of an advantage is that for your program now? How did you feel about doing the #gameofthrones promotion?
COACH JONES: I was just told today that every guy that sat on the throne, good things didn't happen to him. I don't know if that was a good choice or not. But it was monumental, and I think it's an illustration of where we're going at Tennessee, not just in our football program, but our entire athletic department, and our administration has been extremely supportive to marry, so to speak, or going partnership with the global brand of Nike, with the global brand of Tennessee has been very, very good to see. The exciting thing is with the smoky gray uniforms, they actually sent a crew up into the Smoky Mountains, and that's where the color gray came from. When you look at our orange uniforms and our white uniforms, it respects the tradition of Tennessee, which that's what we wanted to do.

Q. How good of an understanding or how well has it been explained to you kind of where Tennessee's cost of attendance figures come from? And also, how good of an understanding do you think there is around the league of where these kind of numbers, they come from?
COACH JONES: I know cost of attendance has been a big topic, and that's a federal government formula. We do not dictate that. We don't have any control of that, and I know there's been numerous questions, how has that affected you in recruiting? And really at the end of the day, a young man, I believe, is going to pick a school because that's where he wants to go to school. He wants to be a part of that institution. He likes the academics there, and he has a rapport and a great relationship with the coaches, and he wants to be a part of something special. So as coaches, we have no input, we have no say in any cost of attendance issues or formulas that they have.

Q. Butch, considering what Joshua did the last part of the season when he finally started, the question is where was this guy the first part of the year? Was he that far behind everybody else in the quarterback job?
COACH JONES: Good question, and I've been asked that a lot. I think every player in your program develops differently, and Josh wasn't quite ready there. He was close, but he wasn't ready. In everything, we don't ever want to put a player in prior to his time. And he had the great resource of being behind Justin Worley. To Josh's credit, he kept working. Was he game ready for Game 1? No. But he continued to work and progress so that, when he did receive his opportunity in the Alabama game, he took great advantage of that. Again, like I spoke earlier, that's a great illustration. But each player develops at their own pace in being able to play winning football, and Josh has been able to do that now.

Q. Coach, what are your expectations for Cam Sutton in his third year?
COACH JONES: Cam has come a long way. Cam was part of our first recruiting class. When we talk about one of the elements that make great players, the makeup of great players is consistency. I spoke about Josh with consistency and performance, and Cam is the illustration on defense. He's very, very consistent. He's extremely competitive. He now gives us the luxury of the ability to play more man-to-man coverage with him. He's very, very cerebral. He's an intelligent football player. So we'll move him around from nickel to playing corner. And to be able to match him up now. But he's worked exceptionally hard, and Cam Sutton deserves everything he gets. He walks around with an iPad all the time studying football. He's a true student of the game. He's taken everything that Coach Martinez has said to him, and he's applied it to his game.

Q. I wanted to ask you, Jalen Hurd obviously had a big impact on your football team last year as a freshman, he was a great all-around back, and he'll be a key cog in our offense this fall. Talk about his improvement, and also newcomer Alvin Kamara. Could he be someone who could complement Jalen in 2015?
COACH JONES: Well, I do think they'll complement each other. They've embraced each other. As you all know in this conference, you can never have enough running backs, and it's all about durability. That's one thing we've really challenged Jalen is his durability. Being 6'3", obviously, he runs with a physical presence, but it's lowering the pad level. He's added the size and the weight he needs to. He's about 242 pounds. Right now we've challenging him with his sleep, we've challenged him with his nutrition and taking care of his body. He's been as determined and focused and as determined a young man as we have in our program right now. Now you couple that with Alvin Kamara, and we're really, really excited. Alvin stepped in our program from day one and didn't say a word and just kept working and working and working, and he has earned the respect of his teammates. We look forward to those two playing football together.

Q. If you would, please speak on the growth and the maturation of Josh Dobbs from last August till now. Secondly, is he the most intelligent quarterback you've ever coached?
COACH JONES: He's right up there from an intelligence standpoint. On the way over here, I thought he was going to try to fly the plane. But he works his craft each and every day, and if you look at him just before and after pictures from his maturation process with his body, we always talk about your body is your weapon. Taking care of your body, from rest, nutrition, to embracing the weight room, and he's really added the weight and size that he needs to. When you run the football a little bit, you have to have that durability, just like we spoke about with Jalen Hurd. But Josh has always been a student of the game. He's always learning. He's had a heck of a week. He went from Elite 11 to Peyton Manning's camp to now SEC Media Days. When you look at the grind and the workload of an SEC quarterback coupled with his academic endeavors, it's very, very impressive.

Q. Last year you entered the season with not a lot of experience on the offensive line. Just how has that shaken out. As a coach, does it give you any level of comfort knowing that there's a lot more experience coming into this season?
COACH JONES: The great thing with the offensive line this spring is it's the first time since we've been at Tennessee where we had our first and second group comprised of scholarship players. So now we have competition, and as we all know, competition is extremely healthy. We're going to have some competitive battles to find the best five to start the season, and that may not say that midyear through the season, maybe number six or number seven is playing, but we now have that competitive depth that we need. Now it's just them gelling together as a unit. I also think having a healthy Jalen Hurd and an Alvin Kamara and Joshua Dobbs is going to help them as well. So I think, again, it's a team. It's a unit thing. But I think the -- their hunger. I think they want to prove to everyone from last year. I thought we made some great changes offensively of playing to our skill set of our quarterback at the end of the year. I think that's one of the reasons why we finished as strongly as we did. And those individuals were able to gain some confidence. I've liked their mentality. I've liked their work ethic. And they're very driven right now.

Q. Your constant every year is Alabama, and I was curious as to whether there was any conversation or how intense that conversation is in trying to change that into a rotating type of situation.
COACH JONES: Well, obviously, the Alabama game means a lot to a lot of individuals. It's kind of embedded in our histories. They're a rival. It means so much to our schools, our universities, to our alumni, to our fans, and to our players. So that really wasn't ever a point of contention or a big conversation piece in terms of rotating teams from the other side. We embrace that with them being our permanent crossover. Now we just have to get back to making those games relevant again.

Q. How do you view this conference as a whole in 2015? Do you feel like it needs to prove anything? Not only in the College Football Playoff, but in Bowl games in general?
COACH JONES: No, I don't. I think, when you look at a body of work over a long period of time, it's the best football conference in the country. And you really don't truly get an appreciation for it unless you have either coached in the league or played in the league. When you look at it, all the demands from media to great passionate fan bases. Every time you go on the road, you're playing in a hostile environment. The commitment by administrations across the board. You can just get a new facility built, and in a year it's outdated. So the vision that's in this conference, I don't. I think we've proven ourselves over a long, lengthy period of time, and it's a body of work, and I think it's a grind each and every day. You're playing the best of the best, the best coaches, the best players, and until you really truly compete in this conference, you may have an appreciation for it, but you can't have a total appreciation until you experience it firsthand.

Q. Coach Jones, A.J. Johnson was a huge emotional leader of the defense that led by example as well as made plays. You mentioned you have a lot of young talent on this team, but who has started to emerge with that defensive intensity as a leader?
COACH JONES: First of all, Curt Maggitt is one of the leaders of our football team. And he has the respect, and the definition of leadership is influence. The other individual who's really stepped up and provided stability at the linebacker position is Jalen Reeves-Maybin. He's done a great job. And then you have obviously the freshman last year in Derek Barnett and a lot of individuals. The great thing for me is choosing who would come to Media Days this year was a challenge in and of itself because we had many worthy players, and one of those was Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and I think that shows you the direction of where we're headed. Cam Sutton is also one of our leaders in our back end. So we're continuing to get more and more leadership, and we spent a lot of time within our football family of leadership development, and I think you're starting to see that pay its dividends.

Q. This is a question you probably can only answer in hindsight, so I apologize. When you're a coach of a team that's building towards something, when do you know, as opposed to just think that the team is actually ready to win.
COACH JONES: That's a great question. Any time you're a CEO, you're a head football coach, you have to always take the emotion out of it. You always have to constantly evaluate where you're at, and I think you can feel it. I think you can see it. But I do think there comes a point in time where there's a defining moment for your football team, where maybe they win a game they're not supposed to, or finally it all gels and it comes together and it clicks, and everything that you've been preaching and preaching and preaching, all of a sudden, it comes to fruition, and they can see it. So I think there has to be a defining moment at some point in your program where your players look around -- because you can stress it, stress it, stress it, but at some point in time, there needs to be tangible evidence, and we were able to see that last year, particularly at the tail end of our season. And the way our football team last year prepared for that football game was the best Bowl preparation of any football team I've ever been a part of. When we arrived at Jacksonville, the focus and determination of our football team led by a small senior class was remarkable. I think that set the stage for our off-season conditioning program and into spring football. But to answer your question, you always at some point in time need a defining moment.

Q. Coach, as you started at Central Michigan and you climbed the coaching ranks to Cincinnati and on to Tennessee, every step you got to a bigger conference. You're talking about how special the SEC was a little bit earlier. Is the athleticism, just the overall athleticism, speed, size, and everything, is it that much more obvious in the SEC than it was in the Big East at the time and then the MAC before that?
COACH JONES: We had some very good players. I believe our last year's team at Central Michigan, we have 11 players that are in the National Football League. The two Pro Bowl captains were part of our first recruiting class at Central Michigan in Antonio Brown and J.J. Watt. They were both Central Michigan Chippewas, and obviously, J.J. went on to Wisconsin. So we had some very good football players that are still playing, same thing with Cincinnati. But I think you just hit it on the head. I think it's everything. It's the size and speed interior. It's in your offensive and defensive lines. Make no mistake about it, this is a line of scrimmage league. It starts there, when you look at the size and skill of your running backs and then your skill players. I think the programs that win consistently in this conference, they have depth. They're able to withstand prominent injuries to prominent players, and they have an individual that's been waiting their turn. I think that really is what separates the programs in this conference. They have that overall competitive depth where it's the next individual in and it doesn't matter the name on the back of the jersey. They play to that standard and that expectation inter-positionally and as a football team, and I think that's what really separates the programs and that's what separates this conference.

Q. Coach, you guys open playing in Nashville. How much of a luxury is it to be able to represent for the people that live maybe not so close to Knoxville?
COACH JONES: We're very, very excited to open up in Nashville at Nissan Stadium, and it's going to be a thrill for all of our players from the midstate area, from Middle Tennessee, and for the entire state of Tennessee to open up in Nashville. Nashville means so much to us. So to be able to open up there and have those players experience that. We need to challenge Vol Nation, we're going to sell the game out. We're going to have a great home field advantage because we need that versus a quality opponent like Bowling Green. But I know our players are looking forward to it, and they're very excited about it.

Q. Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett last year combined for 21 total sacks. With the addition of two highly touted freshmen defensive tackles in Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie, what are your expectations for the defensive line heading into the 2015 season?
COACH JONES: Obviously, Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett have proven themselves, and they fed off of each other, and they're as fine of young men as we have. They're great representatives of our university. They take pride in our performance. They take pride in representing the state of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee. Obviously, the two young individuals that you just mentioned, Shy Tuttle and Kahlil McKenzie are very, very talented players, but they're unproven. They're going to be going up against junior and seniors in this conference. But they're very, very talented, and they've been mentored. We get Dan O'Brien back. Another individual who now is in his third year of his program, and I think it's a great story is Kendal Vickers. Kendal Vickers came in as a defensive end and weighed, I believe, 230 pounds. I saw him yesterday, and he's 287 pounds. He's really made a commitment to his body and to his weight room. So it's going to be how those two individuals come along, and quite simply, it's going to dictate a lot of our success on defense is how quickly they can mature and develop because, again, it starts with stopping the run. And so much of even developing a pass rush really materials inside in the core of your defense.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297