KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Butch Jones has quickly built a reputation for recruiting players, but the Vols coach has been just as effective recruiting coaches.
Assistant head coach and defensive line coach Brady Hoke is one of the latest hires, and so far the former Michigan head coach has lived up to his billing as an all-around great guy.
Universally respected and brutally honest, Hoke has a sense of humor and a guy’s guy approach that everyone seems to appreciate.
Jones was talking at SEC Media Day in Birmingham about how Hoke made his Fourth of July holiday a little more special with a phone call.
“It’s Fourth of July and my phone is blowing up, and it’s Brady Hoke and he’s talking about the dynamics of our staff,” Jones said, “and how it’s going to be a great year, and for me it was comforting.”
Brady Hoke lightens the mood
Hoke, asked about the call on Friday, made light of what was obviously a very important bonding moment for him with Jones.
“I was in Charleston on a beach drinking a beer,” Hoke said, drawing some laughs from the 30 or so gathered media. “Until you’ve sat in that seat at the end of the table, you don’t realize how precious those moments are. Having the time to sit back a little bit and enjoy it, and enjoy your family, so that as much as anything.”
It’s Hoke’s way of saying he’s happy to be in Knoxville after his one season as Oregon’s defensive coordinator went awry on account of several injuries and the head coach there — Mark Helfrich — being fired.
Brady Hoke keeps it real
Hoke was honest and up front with the Ducks before the season as he tried to flip a read-and-react 3-4 scheme into an attacking 4-3.
“We’ve got a long way to go to be a defense that’s going to be effective in this league,” Hoke said in an ESPN.com article from last August when asked about Oregon’s defense in the Pac-12.
Hoke told the reporter there were breakdowns in every level of the defense, breakdowns he thought the coaching staff had fixed going into that day.
It was a sign of things to come, but it said more about the Ducks’ players than it did about Hoke, who owns the distinction of having been named Coach of the Year in three conferences — Mid-American Conference (2008), Mountain West (2010) and Big Ten (2011).
Brady Hoke respected by peers
Bob Shoop, regarded as one of the nation’s top defensive minds to the extent that Nick Saban has studied his schemes, shared a story from spring drills about the difference Hoke makes.
“I remember going into his office at 6 a.m. saying, ‘How would you have handled this?’ ” Shoop said. “He’s been a great ally and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Perhaps most importantly, the defensive linemen have taken a liking to Hoke, too, and the results have been evident in the offseason workouts.
Tennessee strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson said the defensive linemen were the most impressive position group during the first block of summer workouts.
“This is a great place, and I can tell you Butch has done an outstanding job here,” Hoke said. “Some of y’all have been here longer than I have, but he had to come in and do a lot of things, and I know that from taking over programs that maybe weren’t where they needed to be, and you see the work he has done.
“It’s fun to be part of it. Knoxville is great and my wife is happy as anyone can be. … It’s a great place, and we’re excited to be a part of Tennessee football.”