KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones was dialed in at his Saturday press conference with serious issues, both personal and professional on his mind.
Jones opened his press conference in the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio expressing condolences to the family, friends and community of Maryville officer Kenny Moats, who was killed in the line of duty on Thursday.
Jones, of course, is the son of a former police chief in the small town of Saugatuck, Mich.
Talk soon turned to football, as Saturday represented the official start of “Game Week” for the No. 9-ranked Vols.
Tennessee opens the season at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Neyland Stadium against upstart Sun Belt Conference member Appalachian State.
“Appalachian State (was) 11-2 last year and has won 17 of their last 19 contests,” Jones said. “Their players know what it takes to win.
“All you have to do is watch them on video, and they have the respect of our players and our coaching staff. They are very talented across the board and they expect to win.”
Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said on a teleconference that UT is further ahead entering this season than Clemson was entering last season.
Jones joked with the media that they probably enjoyed that quote, but he said he hadn’t put any thought into the comparison.
“I’ve been so consumed with video, getting our team ready to play mentally and physically, and App State with everything they do,” Jones said. “You know, they do some things schematically that really challenge your systems, so all of our effort and energy has been in that.
“Last week we spoke about being game ready. We continue to be a work in progress in that way.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.