Butch Jones hit all the tried and true press conference cliches on Friday afternoon in Knoxville, saying that Tennessee is his dream job and the best college football program in America, and that his team will have attack in all three phases.
But it was when Butch Jones went off the traditional script that his introductory press conference as Tennessee's newest head coach got truly interesting.
Jones officially accepted the Vols' head coaching job this morning, and informed his outgoing team shortly thereafter. "When I told them I had accepted the position at Tennessee, they all started clapping and applauding," he said. This is a stark contrast to the taste his predecessor, Brian Kelly, reportedly left in the mouths of Bearcats players.
Jones was hotly pursued by Colorado for its vacancy, going as far to have Denver Broncos head coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning urge Jones to ink with the Buffs. "Four days ago got a text from Peyton Manning on Colorado," Jones said. "He said, 'It's hard to sell a Tennessee guy on the University of Colorado'. I said, 'Come on, I want to go to Tennessee!'"
It was well known that Tennessee offered the job to two other coaches before they offered it to Jones. When asked if that bothered him, Jones retorted, "Absolutely not. I think I was my wife's third choice and it's worked out for 20 years."
Jones and his staff will have to put their hard hats on, as a true reconstruction project awaits them at Tennessee. The Vols are in the midst of a 14-year SEC title drought and haven't posted a winning SEC record since 2007. Jones looks backward when to create a building block of his program. "Letter-winners have an open-door policy at any of our practices," he said. "They are welcome back at any time."
If he can get junior quarterback Tyler Bray and junior pass catchers Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson to return to school, Jones will have playmakers to work with. Even still, Jones urged players and fans alike to trust in a system that has brought him four conference championship and 50 wins in six seasons as a head coach. "The plan is invaluable if the players buy into it," he said.
On the field, Jones illustrated that he wants his team to play with discipline, to take care of the ball on offense and take it away on defense. Jones' shied away from saying his offense will be a spread, intimating that it implied finesse, but did say his defense will play with a four-man front. Which is much to the delight of junior defensive lineman Maurice Crouch.
Jones didn't get into specifics about hiring his staff, only stating that it will be the "best staff in America." He was asked about Tee Martin, the quarterback who led the Vols to the 1998 national championship and currently serves as the wide receivers coach at USC, saying "He's an individual that I plan to reach out to, but I plan to reach out to a lot of individuals."
What did Mr. Crouch have to say about Martin, you ask?
The press conference ended with Tennessee athletic director taking the mic and jokingly point out to Jones that the Vols' 2013 schedule includes road trips to Oregon, Alabama and Florida. The moment brought laughter to the room, but shed light on what a big excavation effort awaits Jones and his staff in Knoxville.
After locking up their fourth Big East title in five years, Butch Jones put all the job speculation on the back burner and just enjoyed being around his team in their post game celebration after beating UConn.
The video starts off with some good pre game footage from Coach Jones, and then about three quarters of the way through the clip, there's a brief moment of Jones dancing (skip to about the 3 minute mark to catch it). It's not as infamous as "The Gundy", but finding (or coming up with) a name for that move should be interesting.
In the ever evolving world of conference realignments, there is no doubt that media markets play a large role. Cincinnati had been in talks with the ACC about potentially moving from the Big East, and definitely would have brought a substantial market with them, but in the end their budget restrictions forced the conference to instead take rival Louisville.
In a one on one interview recently, Bill Koch of Cincinnati.com sat down with Bearcat athletic director Whit Babcock to gather his thoughts on the realignment situation and what it might possibly mean for head coach Butch Jones.
"I think we’ve got great coaches but our budget is one of the lowest ones at the BCS level and we have a good bit of debt from Varsity Village, so I think we’re challenged a lot from a budget standpoint. I think we need to make improvements to Nippert" Babcock explained, fully understanding the role that facilities and budget play such a big decision for a conference.
"Another thing I’ve learned about conference realignment is there’s about 10 percent that you can control and the other 90 percent is in the hands of other people. We want to compete at the highest level possible. That stance won’t change."
Babcock goes on to explain that their average BCS finish over the past five years is 16th. That's higher than all but one school in the ACC (Virginia Tech), and better than all Big East schools. So that has to count for something in Babcock's eyes. Everyone wants a bigger budget and better facilities, but Cincinnati has a pretty rich history, has been impressive over the handful of seasons, and has definitely made a name for themselves in the national spotlight. That's offering quite a bit to a new conference.
Another area that Babcock addressed was his faith on whether their conference realignment picture would increase the chances that Butch Jones would listen to other schools with a head coaching vacancy.
"I don’t know." Babcock explained. "I know he’s really popular in the coaching ranks. In one way I take it as a compliment that everybody’s interested in him. I think he’s a key part to our brand and I’d sure like to stop this revolving door of coaches leaving. He showed some good loyalty last year and so far this year he has. We’ll see how that goes."
He added that no other school has contacted him about Jones, but also noted "that etiquette is not always extended as much as it used to".
Yesterday, we had heard that Jones plans to meet with Purdue officials following Saturday's game, but that it the situation is by no means a done deal. Stay tuned to The Scoop page for more.
After back to back losses to quality Toledo and Louisville squads, Cincinnati got back on track this past weekend with a win over Syracuse (35-24).
It seems that Cinci always does a great job of chronicling all of their behind the scenes stuff, and this past weekend the cameras were in the locker room to capture the pre and post game locker room environment, as well as a few words from head coach Butch Jones and his assistants at the half.
Another well done video here from the Bearcat staff that recruits, fans, and coaches can all enjoy.
Plenty of coaches across the nation did outstanding jobs in preparing their teams to play, but the group below shined above the rest to win our Coaches of the Week for Week 10 of the college football season.
Head Coach of the Week - Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana - Lafayette: Hudspeth's team became the first squad outside the Big 12 and SEC to defeat ULM with a 40-24 win on Saturday, snapping a two-game losing streak to their intrastate rivals. The 24 points was a season-low for the Warhawks, while the Ragin' Cajuns became the first Sun Belt team to drop 40 points on ULM in regulation since 2009. Quarterback Terrance Broadway was an efficient 23-of-32 for 373 yards and four touchdowns with one interception, while Hudsepth's team controlled the line of scrimmage by out-rushing ULM 234-74. The win moved ULL one victory away from a second straight bowl berth and just one game back of first place in the Sun Belt.
Offensive Staff of the Week - LSU: Credit must be given to Oregon for putting up school records (and USC opponent records) with 62 points and 730 yards, but this week we recognize the work of Greg Studrawa and LSU's offensive coaches. The Tigers offense outperformed even the loftiest expectations against college football's top total, scoring, passing and pass efficiency defense. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger played his best game as a collegian, connecting on 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Running back Jeremy Hill became just the fifth opponent in Nick Saban's tenure at Alabama to run for 100 yards against the Crimson Tide (29 carries, 107 yards, one touchdown). The Tigers moved the ball consistently on Alabama by refusing to leave the field. They were successful on 10-of-20 third downs and ran 85 plays, which adds up to 39:15 time of possession, allowing the Tigers to penetrate for two touchdowns and three field goal attempts.
The last team to put up 435 or more yards of offense against Alabama? That would be LSU -- in 2007.
Defensive Staff of the Week - UCLA: One week after slicing and dicing the USC defense to the tune of 588 yards and 39 points, the Arizona offense compiled just 257 yards and 10 points in a 66-10 shellacking by UCLA. The Bruins held the Pac-12's leading passer Matt Scott to a season-low 124 yards on 15-of-25 attempts. Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos' unit limited Arizona to 3-of-14 on third down, a season-worst 18 first downs, recovered three fumbles and forced seven punts. It did not surrender a touchdown until midway through the third quarter with the Bruins nursing a 42-point lead. The UCLA coaching staff decided to wear war paint on the sidelines and if Saturday's results are any indication, Bruins football just got itself a new tradition.
Special Teams Unit of the Week - San Diego State: Special teams keyed a historic win for San DIego State on Saturday night, 21-19 over Boise State. In defeating Boise State 21-19 on Saturday night, the Aztecs earned the program's first win over an AP top 20 team away from home. Colin Lockett opened the game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. That play stood as San Diego State's only offense until Dwayne Garrett blocked a punt in Broncos territory and returned it to the 8-yard line. Two plays later, San Diego State had its second touchdown of the day and a lead it would not relinquish.
Call of the Week - Butch Jones and Mike Bajakian, Cincinnati: A few weeks ago in this space we promised that any time a coach goes for two and the win late in a game would receive automatic Call of the Week honors, so respect must be given to Gary Patterson and TCU for doing just that in their 39-38 win in double overtime at West Virginia. But this award goes to head coach Butch Jones and Mike Bajakian for doing what no staff has done - calling a jump pass in the middle of the field. Jump passes entered national consciousness with Tim Tebow at Florida in 2006, and we've even seen some running backs execute the play in recent years but the play had exclusively been used as a goal line tactic until Saturday. Trailing Syracuse 10-7 and facing a 4th and 2, Cincinnati opened the second quarter with a simple hand off to tailback George Winn. As Winn approached the line of scrimmage he sprung in the air and found Travis Kelce all alone behind the defense for a 37-yard touchdown. Cincinnati would go on to defeat Syracuse, 35-24.
Though these teams have played only three league games between them, Cincinnati and Louisville will battle for a share of first place in the Big East tonight. Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0 Big East) comes in smarting after a 29-23 loss at Toledo while Louisville (7-0, 2-0 Big East) is one of 10 undefeated teams left in FBS and ranked No. 16 in the BCS Standings.
Charlie Strong's team has masterfully executed a season-long tightrope walk to remain unscathed with four of their last five wins still in doubt until the final horn sounded. The Cardinals have struggled to play above their competition all season, allowing North Carolina to fight back from a 39-14 fourth quarter deficit before a 39-34 decision, holding off 1-7 Florida International in a 28-21 win, needing a 15 unanswered points to defeat winless Southern Miss 21-17 and requiring late touchdown pass and a red zone interception to last-place South Florida, 27-25. Louisville should give its best effort tonight but it's only a matter of time before a coinflip game doesn't bounce their way.
Cincinnati has won with defense this season, ranking in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense at 16.8 points allowed per game. Butch Jones' team has played its best defense in the red zone, where they rank 12th in the country and have allowed only six touchdowns in 17 trips. On the year the Bearcats, led by co-coordinators Steve Stripling and John Jancek, have played effective bend-but-don't-break defense by holding opponents to as many field goals (10) as touchdowns. Compare that to Louisville, which has given up 21 touchdowns and two field goals this season.
The success, or lack thereof, of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Cincinnati signal caller Munchie Legaux will likely decide the game. Bridgewater leads the Big East in passing efficiency (165.21) while averaging 9.01 yards per attempt to go with 11 touchdowns against three picks. Legaux matched his season high with two interceptions in last week's loss. The first was returned 75 yards for a touchdown, and the second ended any hopes Cincinnati had of a last-gasp comeback.
Nevada at Air Force (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
With the way these teams run the ball, this game may be over in time for those in attendance to catch a late dinner and movie.Going strictly by each team's season averages, the Falcons and Wolf Pack will combine for 112 rushes for just under 625 total yards. Neither team is particularly adept at stopping the run; Nevada (4.37 yards per rush allowed) is slightly better at stopping the run than Air Force's 5.36 yards per rush allowed.
Nevada's biggest advantage comes from its offensive balance. Chris Ault's team throws the ball for nearly 270 yards per game with 16 touchdowns against just four picks while picking up 8.25 yards per attempt. Troy Calhoun's team makes almost no effort to throw the ball, but often find success when they do. With just 74 passes this season (only two more than Army for the fewest in FBS), the Falcons are one of three teams averaging a first down with every pass, trailing just NCAA-leading Baylor and fellow triple option devotee Georgia Tech at 10.49 yards per pass. Air Force has also thrown for six scores, five of which have come from 35 yards or further.
One key mistake could decide this game as both teams will struggle to get the opposing offense off the field. Air Force leads the country by converting nearly 57 percent of its third downs, while Nevada ranks ninth at nearly 53 percent. Conversely, both squads rank in the bottom 20 nationally in third down defense.
Like its counterpart, this game also has implications on the conference title chase. Each squad stands at 3-1 in Mountain West in a group of four teams chasing first-place Boise State.
It's hard to believe we're sitting at the halfway point of the 2012 college football season. We could have sworn Labor Day was just a week or two ago. Regardless, 50 percent of the season is already in the books. Here's what we found noteworthy from Week 7 of the college football slate.
1. Move over Ohio, is New Hampshire the new Cradle of Coaches? Probably not, but this stat (courtesy of Bruce Feldman) is astounding: Coaches from the state of New Hampshire, Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen, currently sit at 12-0 so far this season. Not bad for a state with zero FBS programs and just one FBS signee in 2012.
2. Speaking of the Buckeye State, Ohio stands as the top state in college football right now. Urban Meyer is 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the AP poll in his first season at Ohio State. Butch Jones is 5-0 and ranked No. 21 at Cincinnati. Frank Solich has Ohio at 7-0 and No. 25 in the AP. In fact, the MAC East standings read Ohio, Kent State (5-1, 3-0), Bowling Green (4-3, 2-1) and Miami of Ohio (3-4, 2-1) while Toledo also sits atop the MAC West at 6-1 and 4-0 in the league. Ohio's seven FBS teams are a combined 38-14. Oh yeah, and Mount Union is also 5-0 and has allowed only seven points all season.
3. Arkansas seems to have put the wheels back on the wagon. One week after handling Auburn 24-7, the Razorbacks again looked like the top 10 team many expected to see in a 49-7 dismantling of Kentucky. No coach in the country could use a two-game winning streak more than the embattled John L. Smith. Yes, the wins came against teams that are a combined 0-8 in the SEC. But when you are 1-4, a two-game winning streak is a two-game winning streak.
4. Duke missed its first chance at bowl eligibility. David Cutcliffe's team jumped out in front of Virginia Tech 20-0 only to see the Hokies reel off the game's final 41 points. Duke's next three opponents (North Carolina, Clemson and Florida State) are a combined 16-4 until a date with 2-4 Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Nov. 17.
#Duke's David Cutcliffe reiterates Tuesday statement that #Hokies' Frank Beamer is the top coach in the country
5. Congrats to James Franklin and Vanderbilt for finally cracking the code to Florida's fourth quarter defense. After not allowing a point in any fourth quarter this season, Vanderbilt managed to register 10 points in the final frame on Saturday night. It wasn't enough to pull the upset as Will Muschamp's team improved to 6-0 with a 31-17 win. After being outscored 72-22 in fourth quarters last season, the Gators hold a 54-10 fourth quarter edge this season. Florida also claims come-from-behind wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Vanderbilt. Conditioning was clearly an emphasis of Muschamp in the off-season, and strength coach Jeff Dillman has definitely succeeded in transforming his team.
6. We're glad to see that Jerry Kill plans to coach again this Saturday. Kill suffered a seizure in his private locker room less than an hour after Minnesota's 21-13 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. Coach Kill was released from a Minneapolis hospital on Sunday morning.
7. Wisconsin has returned to form after a shaky start to the season. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada and interim offensive line coach Bart Miller have found their footing, and the Badgers' offense is back to its old ways. In a 38-14 win over Purdue, the Wisconsin offense rushed 57 times for 467 yards and four touchdowns. Starting tailback Montee Ball contributed 247 yards and three touchdowns on 29 rushes. After rushing for just 3.3 yards per carry over their first five games, Wisconsin is churning out 7.1 yards per attempt over its last two games. The Badgers are 5-2 and 2-1 in the Big Ten, a full two wins ahead of the pack of bowl-eligible teams in the Leaders Division.
8. Oregon will face an interesting challenge at Arizona State on Thursday night. In his first season in Tempe, Todd Graham has the Sun Devils sitting at 5-1 and ranked No. 24 in the Coaches Poll. Paul Randolph's defense is far and away the best unit in the Pac-12 on paper. Arizona State leads the league in total defense by nearly 60 yards per game over second place USC. The Sun Devils is giving up just 3.92 yards per play, nearly a full yard better than the rest of the conference. Randolph's unit also leads the conference in pass efficiency defense (4.86 yards per attempt), and its 3.23 yards per carry allowed is over a full yard better than Oregon's Pac-12 opposition to date. And then there's this: the last time Oregon traveled to the Grand Canyon State on a Thursday night was in 2007 when the No. 2 ranked Ducks lost to Arizona, 34-24. Chip Kelly and co. will hope history doesn't repeat itself this week. Scott and Zach from our staff will be at this game. More on this to come later in the week.
9. Notre Dame trailed for the first time this season on Saturday. The Fighting Irish actually trailed for a full quarter against Stanford after falling behind 10-3 at halftime; they didn't tie the game until a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. Brian Kelly's team trailed again 13-10 before scoring the game's final 10 points in a 20-13 overtime win. Bob Diaco's defense still has not (officially) surrendered an offensive touchdown in four full games.
10. Midweek action begins this week in college football. Starting with Louisiana - Lafayette at North Texas tomorrow night, we will have Tuesday or Wednesday night football all but one week through Thanksgiving.