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July 17, 2013
KEVIN TRAINOR: We're joined now by the head coach of Tennessee Volunteers, Coach Butch Jones.
COACH JONES: Well, thank you and good afternoon. Before I start, I know most of the coaches have said it and I'd be remiss if I didn't say it, but I want to thank you for being here. I want to thank you for everything you do for the greatest game, that's college football. I want to thank you for what you do for the Southeastern Conference, for what you do for our programs, our student‑athletes, and the University of Tennessee.
Probably the most asked question so far has been, How has your first SEC Media Day been? I'll say what I always say. When the SEC does something, it's truly something special, it's a spectacle. That's what makes the SEC what it is today, the best college football conference in the country.
We talked about building a championship culture, working to get Tennessee football back to its rightful place back among the elite of college football. We talked about doing that brick by brick. That's not a fancy slogan, we really meant that as every brick is symbolic of every individual in our football family and our football organization. It's having clearly defined and articulated standards, expectations and values that are going to guide you on a day‑to‑day basis.
I talk to each player about they were responsible for building their own identity. They were responsible for taking ownership in their own self‑determination, for their self‑improvement. That would lend that self into building their own identity. We talk about that championship mindset that you must have to be a championship football program.
At a relatively early stage, about a month and a half into it, our football team lost over 260 pounds of fat and regained that about 230 pounds of muscle mass. That led me to believe right away that these players are hungry and that they want to win.
Then you couple that up with the most successful semester that we had in recent times of Tennessee football in terms of academics. We had 46 individuals with a 3.0 or higher. We had a cumulative GPA of a 2.82. That's very important because academics are the forefront of our football program.
Before we could ever think of being a championship football team, our team had to be comprised of individual champions. That's the way they conducted themselves, the way they were champions in the community, the way they went to class, the way they performed in our off‑season strength and conditioning program.
Moving forward to spring football, the biggest thing I thought that we need to improve on was our overall toughness. We call it mental conditioning, the mental conditioning for success that it takes to play at a very, very high level.
Being in the SEC every day is a grind, every game is for a championship. So we talked about that toughness. We talked about having a style of play. Every great football team has a unique style of play. We talked about now taking that identity that they were building off the field and applying that to their football identity with the effort, the competitiveness that they had, the ability to retain information, the way we were going to play.
Really we focused on the small details of what it takes to actually play winning football. We really focused on that process. I thought that we left spring football obviously a much better football team.
But I think the challenge of being a first‑year head coach in a program is, every day is a learning opportunity. You're learning more and more about your football program, your football team. It's very hard to come up with a total style of play in 15 practices, really 12 practices with the three non‑padded practices. Obviously as we continue to move forward, August camp obviously is going to be critical.
What I told our football team is we have to focus on the process. We can't worry about the end result right now. We have to focus on the process. We have to be a better football team and a better football program minute by minute, hour by hour, day to day, month by month. If we just have that focus throughout the course of a long season, we'll like our body of work as the season concludes.
Two things right now, then I'll answer any questions that you have that's going on with Tennessee football. First thing is focusing on our current team. Making every player on our football team a better person, a better football player, a better student. Just total improvement in every aspect of their lives. Again, our players have answered that challenge.
The next phase is continuing to recruit a high‑caliber character student‑athlete. I think that's critical for the long‑term success of Tennessee football. Having individuals that understand it is a responsibility that comes along with playing football at the University of Tennessee.
So we look forward to the challenge of this upcoming season. Very proud of what our team has accomplished in a very short period of time. But moving forward, obviously August camp is going to be critical as we continue to create our identity for Team 117.
I'll answer any questions you may have at this particular time.
KEVIN TRAINOR: We'll take questions for Coach Jones.
Q. This is the third program where you've become a head coach. Does the process of a first year change from program to program depending on the program?
COACH JONES: Well, the circumstances are different. The situations are different. But I think the process and how you develop your football team doesn't change. I think that's been the great thing. Not only for myself but our entire staff, this is the third time of taking over a football program. So I think we've really aided and benefited that. I think that's why the transition has been extremely seamless.
When I look at it, I didn't have to coach a coaching staff. They understand the values and the beliefs and the principles that we're going to abide by. Right away they could work on earning the trust of our current team and really developing them.
I think the transition has been seamless and I think we have relied upon those experiences that we gained in the other two places we've been.
Q. Does the fact that Tennessee ran a 4‑3 offense before last season helping in the transition back to that 4‑3 offense right now? Is there any hangover from going to the 3‑4 in between?
COACH JONES: You're talking about defensively, correct?
COACH JONES: I think the 4‑3 defense fits our personnel and our football program. I think obviously everyone understands the SEC is a line‑of‑scrimmage league. You win championships by playing great defense and stopping the run.
Obviously I think for us and our personnel going back to a four‑man front, but we'll be extremely multiple. You'll see us in three down in different situations. I think that's the beauty, the multipleness so to speak that we'll be able to have in our defensive scheme, being able to play three down, four down. It starts with playing great defense and it starts up front.
Q. What has Coach Fulmer and Coach Majors meant to you?
COACH JONES: I tell you what, Coach Fulmer and Coach Majors have been a tremendous resource. Coach Dickey, as well. We get back to a pride of who we are. They're Tennessee football. The more I can speak with them, the more they can come around, the better.
But we developed great relationships with Coach Majors, Coach Fulmer, and they've been great. They're the ones who have really laid the foundation. You look at our tradition, General Neyland, so on and so forth, moving on. They've been a great resource for me. I'll tell you this, I've taken great advantage of speaking with them and building those relationships.
Q. What kind of value of having guys like Willie Martinez and John Jancek who have coached in the SEC before and had success at Georgia brought to you and your staff?
COACH JONES: Well, great value. One of the things is, of putting the staff together, I wanted individuals who understood what it was to recruit and compete at a high level in the SEC. So these individuals have brought a lot to the table.
Obviously Willie being a former defensive coordinator in this conference, having great success at Georgia. John being a co‑defensive coordinator at Georgia, as well. Then the other individual has been Tommy Thigpen who was at Auburn before.
I think being able to rely on them, them to mentor the staff on what it is to recruit at this level, but also the daily grind that it is, competing at this level, they've been a great resource for all of us.
Then obviously Robert Gillespie as well, a new addition at our runningback coach. He has been a tremendous addition to our football staff. Having played in the SEC, coached in the SEC, he's brought another dynamic to our staff, as well.
Q. Five of your first eight games are against teams that finished in the top 10 last season. Have you ever faced anything like that before? How do you approach that?
COACH JONES: Well, you approach it one game at a time. Not to sound like coach speak, but you coach it one day at a time, one game at a time. That's why we have to focus on the process.
It's going to be a great challenge for our football team. It's also going to be a tremendous, tremendous opportunity as well.
But that's why this summer, our strength and conditioning area has been big. That's why I've been stressing depth, individuals stepping up. Unfortunately, the situation we're at at Tennessee, we're going to be forced to play some true freshmen. They're going to have to grow up in a hurry.
The big thing again for us is constant and never‑ending improvement. We have to be a better football team week one, two, three. Those steps may be small, but we have to continue to progress. That's where your leadership kicks in. We're very fortunate to have a very strong senior class, high in numbers as well. So we're going to look to them to provide leadership and depth as well.
Q. For fifth‑year seniors like Marlon Walls, this is their third coach in five years. Those are the guys that you win over first to spread the message. How has that gone?
COACH JONES: Well, Marlon Walls is a great illustration. They've done everything for us. We always talk about it's better to be a player‑coached team than a coach‑coached team. You want your group of guys that are going to hold everyone to that high standard of accountability, that mental effort and intensity that it takes to perform at a high level each and every day.
Our senior class, especially or fifth‑year seniors, have done a great job. Right from day one, I sensed a hunger about them. They're very prideful individuals. Our football program is very prideful. They've really stepped up and taken great ownership in our football program.
Q. When you have head coaches who are deemed offensive guys, they let the defense alone or they get involved. Where do you fit into that?
COACH JONES: Well, I'm an offensive coach by nature. But I like to look at myself as a CEO. I'm responsible for the vision, direction of the entire football program. The way our players play, the way they represent themselves on a day‑to‑day basis, I try to be involved in much.
I'm not a micro‑manager, I let them do their job. I'm going to be animated, involved in practice. I want our players to feed off of our energy and our passion. I don't think you can hide that.
We practice in what we call controlled chaos. I think kids enjoy that. I want them to look forward to coming to practice. I had a great friend, Pete Carroll, that used to say when I was reading his book, that practice is like recess. There's so many things that are going on in our practice, that's where your toughness is born, that's where your leadership is born. You try to simulate so many game conditions as possible.
But, you know, I'm hands on, I'm involved. I've hired an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, and they have a job to do.
Q. The last couple years your Bearcat offense has operated at a faster tempo than what we got used to seeing at Tennessee. Sounds like you want to run a similar sort of up‑tempo in Knoxville. Tell us what you've inherited offensively and specifically your quarterbacks. What does it look like personnel‑wise with this new offense you want to run?
COACH JONES: The mark of a good football coach is they're able to mold their personnel into what they want to do. I think our offensive system is extremely flexible. I think that's been proven over time.
We won our second consecutive championship last year at Cincinnati. We had a dual‑threat quarterback. Mid‑season we made a quarterback change. He was a drop‑back passer. We're very multiple on offense.
There's some things we won't compromise. We do want to play up‑tempo. In order to play great defense, you have to protect your defense. If that means slowing the tempo down, we'll be able to do that. Like we tell our players, if you practice speeding up, it's very easy now when you slow down.
We'll mix the tempos. We want to be an up‑tempo team. People nowadays, I haven't quite understood the term 'spread offense.' Everybody has their own definition of what the spread offense is. Does it mean you're in shotgun all the time? Does it mean you're not in 21 or two‑back personnel? We're a multiple, up‑tempo offense.
I think a lot of times when you hear the element of the spread offense, you think of finesse, and we're not going to be a finesse‑style football team. We're going to be a physical football team. We're going to run the ball first.
We think plays instead of players. I think that's where coaches get into trouble, is we want to put the ball in the hands of our play‑makers. It's plays versus play‑makers. We want our play‑makers catching the ball. That's why building our identity as we move forward in August camp is going to be critical as we continue to define who our play‑makers are. Whatever it takes to get them the ball in space, we have to do that.
Q. I know you take it one game at a time. Have you had any of your fans come up to you and say, We've lost eight in a row to Florida, can you beat the Gators? Have you heard any of that?
COACH JONES: Hear it all the time (smiling).
Obviously being at Tennessee, we have a lot of rivalry games. I've heard that about Florida, obviously. I've heard that about Alabama. In order for us to make those rivalry games, we have to get back to being relevant and winning those football games.
Obviously those are tremendous football programs with Coach Muschamp and Coach Saban. Obviously they've done a tremendous job. I hear that all the time.
Our fan base is very prideful, so I'm reminded of that quite a bit.
Q. You're one of four coaches making the move to the SEC. Did you make any adjustments when you moved up to the league? Have you had any surprises from the move?
COACH JONES: You know, not really adjustments. You're still dealing with 17‑ to 22‑year‑old individuals that you're molding into being great student‑athletes and football players, earn their college degrees, play with toughness and win football games, let them be better people because they're part of your football program.
Everyone asks me, What's it like to be in the SEC? My constant phrase is, The best analogy I can give you is every day in the SEC is it's like fourth‑and‑one for the national championship. It doesn't matter if it's practice, recruiting, game time which I'll experience soon, the competitive structure of this football conference, the difference between winning and losing is very slim.
We always talk about in terms of inches make the champion. You're looking for those inches. Everyone is looking for that competitive edge. Everyone is making commitments to their football program.
That's what makes this the best football conference in America.
Q. How critical is it for your team to have returning offensive linemen for your offense and your new quarterbacks?
COACH JONES: Well, it's critical. Like I said, you win games up front. Obviously to have a returning offensive line that we have is very comforting. They have a lot of expectations going into this season, rightfully so. They have to obviously continue to develop on their pad level of coming off, playing with a greater sense of physicality.
But they've done a great job and they've been great ambassadors for our football program. I'm more concerned about our depth at that position. I want to know by the end of camp who's going to be our number 6‑0 lineman, our number 7‑0 lineman.
Then there's the responsibility of those older players up front to really mentor our freshmen, so when they leave the program that they understand the standard and expectation that it is to play offensive line at the University of Tennessee.
Q. When you took over at Central Michigan, you had Dan LeFevour. Cincinnati you had Zach Collaros. How different is it going into this situation without a clear‑cut quarterback?
COACH JONES: Each situation is different. Dan LeFevour is different because he played one year. He still had a lot of developing to do.
We go to Cincinnati, Zach Collaros, it was his first year of being a first‑time starter. There's a difference. When you become the full‑time starter, your life changes. You have to block out the clutter, the distractions, all the things that are associated with being a starting quarterback at a very high level in a program that everybody watches.
I always say, Praise and blame, it's all the same. It's the responsibility of command that comes with the head football coach and the quarterback position.
So moving forward with our situation, with Justin Worley, Nathan Petermen, true freshmen, we have to continue to develop those people. Our quarterback position is no different than any other position on our football team. We're going to put the best people in those positions that give Tennessee the best opportunity to win on game day.
I like the progress that Justin has made and Nathan has made. I'm excited to see what the two freshmen bring to the table when we start camp August 1st.
Q. Yesterday Jadeveon Clowney said that Tiny Richardson was one of the few offensive tackles that could block him last year. What did you see in him in that South Carolina game and does he use the one play where Clowney did beat him as motivation for this year?
COACH JONES: Absolutely. I think when you want to be the best, you always think about one or two plays that made a difference. Tiny talks about that play all the time. I'll tell you this. Is there anybody more in the country than Tiny Richardson that he has the respect he has for Clowney. Very rightfully so. He can change the complexion of a game in one play as we've seen throughout the course of a season.
Tiny wants to be the best he can possibly be. He's driven by that, talks about it. We talk about that mindset of a champion, having that championship endurance.
One bad play can be the difference between winning and losing. So we talk about that all the time. I think that's added to just his overall development as a football player. But Tiny wants to be the best that he can be.
Q. Can you talk about the training for social media, specifically Twitter, that your players go through, the advice and the depth of training them on the dos and don'ts of Twitter?
COACH JONES: We have a character education program that's very, very extensive. It's just like educating your children. My six‑year‑old walked in the room yesterday and he wanted to go on Twitter. I'm like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's wait a little minute.
We bring a lot of people in to really train them. One bad tweet can change everyone's opinion of you. Basically the common rule we use is if you can put it in an email to your mother, grandmother, significant other, whoever is important in your life, if you can send that in an email to them, you can push send.
We talk about the one‑second rule. In one second, your life can change. That's the world we live in today with multimedia, Twitter, Facebook, everything.
So we spent an inordinate amount of time of really monitoring that process and trying to educate our players. It can be a positive if you allow it to be a positive, just like it can be a negative. But we monitor that and take great pride in that.
That's part of the things of being a part of these players' lives, is mentoring them outside the realm of football, but life in general as well.
KEVIN TRAINOR: Coach, thanks for your time.
COACH JONES: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports