Butch Jones has lost favor with a lot of the national media this offseason compared to last offseason. That will happen when your team collapses down the stretch and both you and your team fail to meet expectations. But the backlash on Jones this offseason from the national media has been somewhat severe considering the Vols still went 8-4 last season and not 5-7, per se.
Jones has been tabbed by one writer as having the hottest seat in college football, and another writer made the bold prediction that Jones would be fired before the end of the season. Then there’s CBS’ rankings of Power Five coaches that saw Jones left outside the top 50 coaches on the list.
Athlon recently released their own coaching rankings of all 130 FBS coaches, and Jones fared far better on their list than he did on the CBS rankings. According to Athlon, Jones is the No. 30 head coach in the country.
Here’s what Athlon had to say about Jones:
“High expectations surrounded Tennessee last season, and while the Volunteers fell short of winning the SEC East, the program recorded a 9-4 record and a No. 22 finish in the Associated Press poll. Contending for the East Division is certainly a fair and yearly expectation in Knoxville, but Jones has guided the program to back-to-back nine-win seasons. The 18 victories over the last two years are the most in Tennessee history since posting 19 from 2006-07. Despite falling short of preseason expectations, it’s clear Jones has helped this program take a step forward. He’s 30-21 overall in four years, and the Volunteers have recorded three consecutive bowl victories for the first time since 1994-96. Prior to Tennessee, Jones finished 27-13 in three years at Central Michigan and went 23-14 in three seasons at Cincinnati. He’s had just two losing records in 10 years as a FBS coach.”
Jones is ranked right behind Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss and is considered the sixth-best coach in the SEC according to the Athlon rankings. He’s behind Nick Saban (1st), Dan Mullen (19th), Jim McElwain (21st), Gus Malzahn (22nd), Bret Bielema (27th), and Hugh Freeze (29th). 2017 Vol opponent Georgia Tech has their head coach, Paul Johnson, ahead of Jones as well at No. 26 on the list.
Tennessee is historically a top-15 if not top-10 program, so having a coach barely crack the top-30 is still not where expectations should be for the Vols’ head coach. But Vol fans can rest a little easier knowing that not all the national media has soured on Jones and Tennessee at least.