KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones had better win next year!
How many times have you heard that among Tennessee football fans?
Jones was brought to Knoxville four years ago to take over an SEC football program that had won two of its previous 16 league games.
It was a soiled program with a shaky administration that was also dealing with off-field Title IX issues, and the Vols were still on probation from Lane Kiffin’s 2009 nuclear season.
Four years later, a 9-4 record with wins over Florida and Georgia represents a disappointing season at Tennessee.
That’s the way it used to be in Knoxville, back when irrational boosters donated enough money to get the athletic department to fire first-ballot Hall of Fame coach Phillip Fulmer less than a year after he delivered the Vols to the 2007 SEC championship game.
Tennessee hasn’t been back to the league title game since, and many of those critics from yesteryear have changed their message board screen names and Twitter handles.
But 10 years ago, the battle cry was that it was time for Fulmer to go because “Anybody can win at Tennessee!”
It was a compliment to Fulmer that he made it look that easy.
Tennessee fans, however, are back to feeling a sense of entitlement and turning the heat up on Jones, even though he has shown progress each of his four seasons.
Pressured or not, Jones does plan to win next year, and that’s why he promoted from within to fill the vacant offensive coordinator position.
There were plenty of big-name candidates available, and the Vols’ administration — while still shaky — has plenty of money to throw around.
Here are 3 reasons why Jones promoting Larry Scott and bringing in Mike Canales as quarterbacks coach makes sense:
1) Butch Jones had better win next year!
Unlike what happened in Fulmer’s fateful 2008 season, Tennessee won’t be teaching a new offense in 2017 after making an internal hire and bringing in a QB coach familiar with the Vols’ philosophy.
Had Jones hired a big-name, high-profile coordinator, it would have been to install a new scheme that likely included new terminology and a new philosophy.
That would have meant the players needed to re-learn the offense, and the new play-caller/ coordinator would have needed to learn all the personnel to have a better idea how to design and call plays.
Scott sat next to former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord in the skybox throughout the 2016 season and worked with many of the most dynamic playmakers on special teams.
2) The offense isn’t broke
Sometimes, it’s as simple as “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Jones’ offense set single-season school records for points and touchdowns last year, and its struggles were most all rooted in the offensive line’s sluggish performance and injuries throughout the season.
Tennessee will be breaking in a new quarterback this season, and the continuity of the scheme certainly will help that young QB develop more quickly than if he had to learn an entirely new offense.
The Vols have an experienced offensive line returning, and with the scheme and terminology staying the same, and a new strength coach in place, it figures to be one of the stronger units in the league.
3) Larry Scott is worth the gamble
The 40-year-old Scott has emerged as one of the top recruiters in the SEC, and he has brought a presence to the football building that players feed off.
Scott proved himself as the interim head coach at Miami in 2015, going 4-2 in that leadership position.
Jones is giving Scott a chance to grow within the Tennessee football program, and the trade-off is that Scott will continue to deliver top-flight players because of his strong relationships in Florida.
The fact that Scott is a first-time play-caller could work in the Vols’ favor, as there’s no “book” on him, so opponents won’t have any tendencies to draw from in defensive preparations.
Jones will continue to oversee offensive staff meetings, and Canales was Scott’s offensive coordinator at South Florida, so he’ll also be in a position to offer guidance when needed.