Butch Jones, like the Tennessee team he’s leading into 2015, has been hovering around the Top 25 of some of these lists. The most recent one from Athlon’s staff put Jones right at No. 25 nationally, and here’s an excerpt of their rationale:
“With the talent on the rise, a solid core of personnel in place, and a team that won four out of its final five games, Tennessee is poised to take another step forward in 2015. Prior to Tennessee, Jones guided Central Michigan to a 27-13 record in three years (2007-09) and led Cincinnati to a 23-14 mark from 2010-12.”
An article from Clay Travis and FoxSports.com a few weeks back didn’t include Jones in the Top 25, putting him in the “too soon to tell” category.
It’s certainly an interesting debate. Jones wasn’t a household name when the Vols hired him in 2013, but he did bring a track record of success with him from previous stops as a head coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati – where he either won or tied for a conference title in four of six seasons while putting up a 50-27 overall record.
And from a recruiting perspective, Jones has certainly entered an elite stratosphere with consecutive Top 5 classes in Knoxville in the past two years. But where does that place Jones among the best in the nation in terms of the total package?
It really is difficult to say at this point. Based on what he’s done in two years in Knoxville, he’s probably not there. A Top 25 coach nationally regularly defeats other top programs. Jones isn’t there yet at Tennessee, but the evidence is mounting that he’ll be ready to in 2015 as the rebuilding job progresses.
This is the year Jones can make the move into the Top 25, if not higher. If he can get the Vols in SEC contention and get some wins such as Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma and others – there won’t be much debate.