This offseason, Butch Jones drastically overhauled his coaching staff. Some coaches left for other schools while others were shuffled around in the program. But Jones made a concerted effort to bring in more experience to his staff for the 2017 season, and he succeeded in doing just that.
The Vols’ coaching staff heading into this season has four coaches with previous head coaching experience, including both coordinators. Offensive coordinator Larry Scott, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, defensive line coach Brady Hoke, and quarterbacks coach Mike Canales have all been a head coach of a collegiate football team in some form or fashion.
And they’re willing to share their experiences with Jones this season.
“Until you sit at that end of the table, I don’t think there is anything that will make you ready for that until you take on those responsibilities and run the program from top to bottom,” Larry Scott said during media availability. “It was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had. People always ask how you know you’re ready. Well, a lot of people don’t know until they’re thrust in those positions.”
For Scott, taking over a Miami team mid-season was a less than ideal situation. Especially considering the downward trajectory that 2015 Miami team was going down. But Scott took over and won four of the final five regular season games for the Hurricanes, helping salvage what was shaping up to be a disastrous season.
And Scott believes that experience helps him as a coordinator as well.
“It was an awesome opportunity, but it’s definitely helped me as an assistant coach,” Scott stated. “It gives you the feeling of confidence that you need moving forward. You always look at the next challenge, accept it and then go.
“That experience definitely shaped me to where I am now.”
Defensive line coach Brady Hoke easily has the most head coaching experience on staff for the Vols this season. Hoke’s 12 years as a head coach surpasses even Jones’ experience as a head coach in his career.
So what has Hoke learned throughout his time as a head coach?
“There are good things and bad things, and we all know that,” Hoke stated. “As much as anything, coming here and knowing Butch as long as I’ve known him, coaching against each other…every day is different. When you have 120 different young men that you work with and their families and the things they go through, every day is different.”
“Through all our experiences, and I’m not talking for Larry, Bob, or Chico (Canales), but it’s our job when coach asks that we give him our experiences and that we help when it becomes a matter of making some tough decisions.”
Hoke earned a 78-70 overall record as a head coach in his stops at Ball State, San Diego State, and Michigan. He’s also been a defensive coordinator for Oregon and has served as a defensive line coach at Michigan, Oregon State, and Western Michigan.
Quarterbacks coach Mike Canales, who twice served as an interim head coach at North Texas, echoed Hoke’s statement about using his experience to help Jones make decisions this season.
“Being here where I’ve had a chance to watch Coach Jones’ career, his development and his growth as he climbed the ladder into this position at the University of Tennessee and being good friends and watching what he’s done, it’s been good for me to be here in this situation where I just get to coach a room,” Canales said. “I know I am the CEO of our quarterback room. I think that’s important that they understand that I’ve been a coordinator, a quarterback coach and a head coach.
“I think Coach Jones values the opinions that we have, but it also give me a chance to work my room and give them my philosophy that I have gained over the many years that I have coached.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has never been a head coach at an FBS school like the other coaches on staff, but he was the head coach at Columbia from 2003-05. Shoop didn’t win very many games at the helm there, going only 7-23. But he’s taken away lessons from that experience and believes the staff Jones has assembled now is the best since he’s been there.
“Coach Hoke was the Coach of the Year in the Big 10, the Mountain West and the MAC,” Shoop said. “Larry Scott did a great job when he was the interim head coach at Miami and Mike Canales did a great job. I was a head coach at Columbia for three years and we didn’t win a lot of games, but I really like this staff. Not that I didn’t like the previous staff, but this is a good staff.
“I think the thing that Coach Jones has done by having people on the staff is there’s not a day that we come into work that we don’t enjoy working with one another in the defensive room, offense and defense, and the quality controls and the graduate assistant. We’ve assembled a big league staff and, most importantly, it’s a good group of men, leaders, teachers, role models and mentors who happen to be good football coaches.”
Butch Jones has many former head coaches at his disposal on his staff this season. And they’re willing to offer their advice should Jones need it. Jones needs to have an open ear this season, more so than any other season he’s been at Tennessee, and he has plenty of experienced voices to help him out heading into his fifth year in Knoxville.