Tennessee Vols head football coach Butch Jones is heading into unknown territory this upcoming season. It will be the first time in Jones’ head coaching career that he will enter a fourth season with the same team. And he’s showing he’s not afraid to make changes in arguably the most crucial year of his coaching career.
Butch Jones was criticized several times during the 2015 season for playing too conservatively, for not taking enough risks to help the Vols widen their lead or close out games. He was called out for not making tough calls late in games, calls that could’ve helped the Vols win close games.
But now Butch Jones is showing he’s finally willing to make the tough calls. Off the field, at least.
Since Tennessee defeated Northwestern in the Outback Bowl on January 1st of this year, Butch Jones has made several difficult decisions in regards to his staff. And those choices have gone against the perception fans had of Jones previously.
John Jancek had been part of a Butch Jones-led staff since 2010 when both were at Cincinnati together. Jones brought on Jancek to be his defensive coordinator at Tennessee when he was hired as head coach. And his defense steadily improved each season.
But Jones wasn’t satisfied with “good enough” for the Vols’ defense heading into his pivotal fourth season as head coach at Tennessee. So he decided to make a change.
Butch Jones parted ways with Jancek after six years of working together. Jones saw room for improvement, knew the defense needed to take another step in 2016, and didn’t let feelings get in the way of his judgement. And Jones went out and hired Bob Shoop, considered by some to be one of the best defensive coordinators in college football, to replace Jancek.
And Butch Jones made another tough decision with another long-time assistant just last week.
It was announced on April 22nd that strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson would no longer be with the Vols. Lawson had already been reassigned within the university, but it was made official that he would no longer be serving as the strength and conditioning coach for the Vols on Friday. Lawson had been with Butch Jones since he started out as a head coach at Central Michigan in 2007, yet Jones showed once again that he was willing to make the decision he felt was better for his team rather than holding on for personal reasons.
When Butch Jones hired Mike Debord as offensive coordinator before the 2015 season, it only reaffirmed to some fans the idea that Jones had a “good old boys” mentality when it came to his staff. It appeared as though he would only hire people with whom he had worked in the past or had some sort of connection to him.
But his most recent staff moves have gone against that image. And it shows that Butch Jones has it in him to make the tough decisions in order to improve his team. Whether it’s because of the new realm he’s entering as he heads into his fourth season at Tennessee or because he’s slowly changing his philosophy, Jones is showing he has what it takes to make the controversial calls.
Now we will wait and see if he does the same once the team takes the field this upcoming season.