Butch Jones reportedly is close to making a hire at quarterbacks coach, and it’s a name that checks off at least a couple of the things that Jones said he was looking to add to his offensive staff this offseason.
Veteran coach Mike Canales, who is currently the running backs coach and assistant head coach at Utah State, will be Jones’ choice to join Tennessee, according to a report from 247Sports. The report says that the move is “imminent,” though Tennessee hasn’t confirmed it as of early Thursday morning.
Canales matches what Jones said he was looking for in terms of “fit” and a “developer of quarterbacks.”
Jones and Canales have a long-standing friendship. The two faced off in 2015 when Tennessee faced North Texas, which was then led by Canales as an interim head coach, and Jones, after winning the game 24-0, openly stumped for Canales to be named the permanent head coach for the Mean Green. Fit and continuity have been two big things Jones has looked for when making hires offensively in recent years.
Jones was adamant that he wanted to enhance, not overhaul, the offense after OC Mike DeBord left for the same position at Indiana earlier in January. In simpler terms, Jones wants somebody to run his offense, not somebody who wants to bring in a new scheme. Tight ends coach Larry Scott is expected to be promoted to offensive coordinator, according to multiple reports.
Canales also brings extensive quarterbacking coaching expertise with over two decades of experience working with that position, although a majority of it came below the Power-5 level.
He had stops at Snow College, Pacific and South Florida (prior to moving to the FBS) before landing his first FBS gig as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for North Carolina State in 2001-02, where he coached Phillip Rivers.
He had a one-year stint as a receivers coach with the New York Jets (2003) before moving on to be either the offensive coordinator or co-coordinator at Arizona from 2004-06. He’s since had stints at South Florida, North Texas and Utah State in a variety of roles – everything from interim head coach to position coach.
If it goes through, this certainly won’t be the “splash” hire that many fans were hoping for after several NFL quarterback coach names were linked to this opening.
But Jones, as he has in the past, appears content to add and re-shuffle more familiar pieces as opposed to going too outside the box on the offensive side of the ball. And facing what might be a win-or-else season in 2017, it’s not shocking that Jones would double down on his system – which certainly has put up some big numbers in the midst of inconsistent performances – as he enters this critical season.
Is it the right call? That’ll become apparent in 2017, and Jones might not get a do-over if it isn’t.
We’ll have more information if and when the hire is confirmed.