KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee assistants Walt Wells and Kevin Beard have slid into their new position coaching gigs, but it would be a stretch to say they’re getting comfortable.
No one on Coach Butch Jones’ staff is “comfortable” these days, including the head man himself, and Wells and Beard explained that’s by design.
The Vols’ coaching staff has said to a man there’s excitement and energy in the football building coming off a third-straight bowl victory. But Jones isn’t resting on any laurels.
“If there’s any one quality about Butch I noticed, and I had a chance to sit back and watch last year as the quality control assistant, it’s that he’s watching when people don’t think he’s watching, and that’s not a bad thing,” said Wells, the new offensive line coach. “Butch Jones makes sure everyone is doing what it takes to be successful, and then he does his part to take care of all the people in his organization, especially the players.
“Coach has their well-being in mind whenever he makes any decision, from their health and nutrition, to getting them the best gear available to knowing how to make sure they feel good about themselves.”
Beard, who played for arguably the greatest college champion of the BCS era at Miami in 2002, said Jones’ thorough nature is like nothing he has ever seen.
“I can guarantee the Vols’ fans that there is a process going on in this building,” said Beard, who has taken over duties as receivers coach. “We’re looking over what we’re doing and evaluating ourselves like no one else will or can, and we’ll put the best product out there and win games and ultimately win championships.”
Brady Hoke, brought in to coach the defensive line, took note of Jones’ program detail immediately.
“I love the chemistry and how everyone is working together,” Hoke said. “Butch has done the same thing that we tried to do at Michigan, and that’s find people who fit the profile of how you want to play, and how you want to represent the program.”
Wells said the staff reboot — five positions have new assistants in charge, two on defense, three on offense — has triggered a fresh perspective.
“I think any time there’s change, there’s some excitement, and some people will have some anticipation,” Wells said. “The one thing when change happens, it forces everyone to re-evaluate where they are at, and it challenges you to do things a different way. We all bring different experiences to the staff room and it creates a dynamic.”
And Jones sits at the head of the table in the coaches’ meeting room, turning over every stone, discussing every possibility.
“Coach knows the Xs and Os, and obviously he can evaluate talent, or he wouldn’t be winning like he does every season,” Wells said. “He doesn’t only look at what we do — he’s constantly in contact with coaches from other schools and studying what everyone is doing.
“It’s how thorough he is that makes him so consistent; he’s constantly looking for ways to improve.”
Jones has won as many or more games from one regular season to the next at each of the three head coaching stops he has had over 10 years at the FBS level.