KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his offensive coordinator, Larry Scott, sounded very much like they were taking most of the Division I Council’s new legislation in stride Tuesday afternoon.
Most — but not all.
“The one thing I was extremely disappointed in is the ability of high school football coaches to work your camp,” Jones said after Tuesday’s practice. “We’re in a profession where it’s development and relationships, and I have a tremendous amount of friends, like everyone in profession, who coach high school football and it’s a great time to get together and talk football and work on the field together as well.
“It’s all about our profession, but it’s also about bringing younger coaches into the profession and so much good had come of that.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban was upset about the same rule, which will keep high school coaches from working college camps — and bringing their prospects to the camp.
“The kids are still going to come to camp, the prospects, so who’s going to bring them now?” Saban said in an SEC Country story. “If the high school coach doesn’t bring them, some third-party guy is going to bring them, and that’s what we’re really trying to eliminate.
“I don’t understand the spirit of the rule. I don’t really know why we’re doing it.”
Tennessee coaches Jones and Scott were on the same page when it came to another of the changes ahead, the addition of a 10th assistant coach.
“A lot of people will assign that to whatever their needs are, special teams, or a second D-Line coach or a second secondary coach,” Scott said Tuesday. “You see people with inside and outside receiver coaches. It’s how you are built and the way you’re going.”
The Vols would likely add another defensive staff member, based on the current split and assignment of the resources.
Jones is a former offensive coordinator and spends most of his time in the offensive meeting room.
The Vols’ staff has five other full-time offensive assistants in the offensive meeting room, while the defense has four.
One of the defensive coaches working under coordinator Bob Shoop is secondary coach Charlton Warren, and he oversees special teams, too.
An even split of the resources will lead to another defensive assistant.
As things currently stand, 14 staff members can take part in hands-on coaching, the head coach, nine assistants and four graduate assistants. Programs can add the 10th assistant starting in January of 2018.
“Everything is about the structure on your staff and what’s needed,” Jones said. “You’ll see different programs go in different ways.”
Another change that’s on the way involves the new recruiting calendar.
Prospects can take official (paid for) visits between April 1 and the last Wednesday in June, and of an early signing day (Dec. 20) has been added in addition to the current National Signing Day (first Wednesday of February).
Jones said his concern is if that will lead to recruiting becoming more of a distraction for the student athlete during their high school season.
“The biggest thing you’ll see is an inordinate amount of volume of in-season visits, and what that does a little bit is it takes you away from your current team,” Jones said. “Same thing with early signing day … the positive is for a young man who knows where he wants to go, he’s able to sign on a day and move forward, the one thing we have to be cognizant of is in-season visits.
“Everything is about the high school coach and respecting their programs as well, and I hope we don’t get to a point where high school seniors are taking their visits and they are putting their high school football team second.”
Jones and Scott said the portion of the rule involving prospects taking visits in spring of their junior season isn’t an issue for Tennessee.
“We pretty much work the weekends anyway,” Jones said. “ For us, we have a beautiful campus and we can do visits year around.”
Scott said most Tennessee recruits are at an accelerated pace, anyway, and the Vols already place a great deal of importance on the spring and summer recruiting periods.
“The way you’re supposed to recruit, anyway, you recruit everybody like there’s an early signing period, and if they happen to sign a piece of paper they sign it, and if not let’s keep rolling,” Scott said. “I think it will just adjust your timetables and schedules a little bit, as far as bringing kids in on visits and getting them on campus
“But for the most part it will be business as usual.”
Scott said he doesn’t see the new recruiting calendar creating any more work at Tennessee than the coaches are already putting in to compete in the SEC.
“At Tennessee, every weekend is alive for us, every weekend and every opportunity we get to get a young man on this campus we’re opened up,” Scott said. “It has to be that way, and that’s just the nature of the beast, recruiting in this league when you recruit the level of talent we do.
“Spring recruiting is just as important as finishing in December and January, because it’s the evaluation and identification period, what guys fit us — same thing of the prospects when they are here on campus, do I fit them?”
Jones said Tennessee anticipated many of the rules, and plans are already in place for how the program will adjust.
“You just have to adapt,” said Jones, who has done just that since entering the SEC 4 1/2 years ago in leading UT from historic lows to back-to-back Top 25 seasons. “We’ll see how it works itself out. We’ll be fine.”