Butch Jones spoke to the media for the first time since the moments following the Vanderbilt game. He addressed several issues surrounding the program and discussed the matchup with Nebraska.
Here are some of the key points:
Injury update: Jones ruled offensive lineman Chance Hall out for the Music City Bowl, saying that the sophomore starting offensive tackle underwent successful surgery and should be back in “the winter months.” Safety/kick returner Evan Berry will not be able to make a return for the bowl game.
Jones said all the other players (such as Dylan Wiesman, Todd Kelly Jr., Darrin Kirkland Jr.) who were banged up late in the season should be ready to go for the Dec. 30 matchup against Nebraska.
Offseason evaluations: Jones said he would do a “thorough” examination of every aspect of the program in the coming weeks. He said it was too early to comment on any potential coaching changes, but did say that there’s an opening on the strength and conditioning staff since there have only been four coaches working with the football team while there’s a maximum of five allowed.
Jones did take his fair share of accountability for the late-season struggles.
“We didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish, and that’s unacceptable in this program,” Jones said. “I take responsibility for that.”
Recruiting: With the team currently taking final exams, Jones said his top priority would be recruiting in the coming week.
Jones said he felt that the 2017 class was on the verge of being “top notch,” while he emphasized the need for adding competitive depth across the roster several times during his press conference.
Jones couldn’t mention him by name, but there’s a ton riding on the decision of five-star offensive tackle Trey Smith of Jackson, Tenn., who is scheduled to make his announcement on Tuesday before enrolling early at his selected school. Smith is expected to choose between UT, Ohio State and Alabama, with the Vols and Buckeyes looking like the teams to meet. Smith visited UT over the past weekend.
Jones On Nebraska…
“A very, very good opponent. When you look at Nebraska just from the outside, obviously they sit at 9-3. Two of their losses have come to two top-10 football programs. They started the season off 7-0. It’s two historical programs that are going to come together. So we’re excited about that with a quality opponent and it’s going to be a great challenge moving forward.”