Posted: 12:01 am Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Q&A with Tennessee coach Butch Jones 

By Michael Carvell

Tennessee's Butch Jones has made Georgia a recruiting priority (AP)

Tennessee’s Butch Jones has made Georgia a recruiting priority (AP)

Since taking over at Tennessee last season, coach Butch Jones has worked to reestablish the state of Georgia as one of the football program’s top recruiting priorities.

Jones has had some early success, signing seven Georgia products in his first two recruiting classes, including four from Atlanta earlier this month.

Jones did a Q&A with the AJC’s Michael Carvell.

Your top-ranked recruit was Jalen Hurd, a 4-star running back from Hendersonville, Tenn. Hurd was vocal in saying that he didn’t feel like a priority when Derek Dooley was Tennessee’s coach. What do you think turned things around your favor with Hurd? “I think first of all, it’s establishing relationships. It’s establishing trust, but also selling him and the rest of the signing class on our vision. Tennessee is a special place with a great brand. But it’s the people that make a place. So really presenting the plan to (Hurd), and he could feel the energy of the entire coaching staff, and the vision that was behind implementing our plan. Again, it was developing that relationship and trust that occurs over time.”

While we are talking about Hurd, USC issued an apology after a staff member was caught on tape calling him “soft and terrible.” Any thoughts on that? “No. You know, I think our fans did a good enough job with that. But you know what? For us, it’s all about preparing Jalen — and that was really nothing. To be quite frank with you, him and I haven’t even discussed it.”

One of the top 10 players that Georgia has ever produced, NFL Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, played at Tennessee. And his twin younger brothers, Evan and Elliott Berry from Creekside High School, both signed with Tennessee last month. What positions will they play at Tennessee? I’ve heard numerous position possibilities. “Eric Berry is truly a Vol for Life with everything he has meant to us on the field and off the field. He’s a great character and individual. To be able to add his twin brothers, they are a great, great family. So the great thing about Elliott and Evan is that they can play a multitude of positions. They are extremely athletic. We had them in our camps this summer. One of the priorities is that we needed to improve our team speed. With the Berry twins, we’ve been able to improve our team speed. They have great versatility. They can play a number of different positions. When you’re building a program, and right now we’re not anywhere where we need to be in terms of depth — that really, really is going to be a big benefit for us.”

When the Berry twins committed, they said that Tennessee was their only offer. What did you think about that? My assumption was that some schools stayed away because everybody knew they were “locks” to sign with Tennessee.  “They have from Eric and their father – their blood is basically orange. But you never take anything for granted. The thing about the Berry family is that they do their due diligence. I know they were going to let their sons choose wherever they wanted to go to. We treated them as if they had no ties to Tennessee. Again, it got back to really selling our vision and our philosophy within our football program.”

There were few surprises across Georgia this year on signing day, but one of them was Peachtree Ridge High School offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. flipping from Tennessee to Oklahoma. Did you see that coming? “Well, I will only comment on the individuals that signed with us. So the great thing about this recruiting class is that most of these individuals had been committed for a very, very long period of time. They started recruiting each other. They are great character young men. They will be great ambassadors for us. The amazing thing within this class is that not many of them took official visits anywhere else. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a year where we signed the number we signed, including midyears, and they were as highly-recruited as they were, but very few took official visits anywhere else.”

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs of Alpharetta (AP)

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs of Alpharetta (AP)

The year before on signing day, Alpharetta High School quarterback Joshua Dobbs flipped from Arizona State to Tennessee. Dobbs started four games for you as a true freshman. Is he the clear No. 1 quarterback for next season? “The quarterback competition will be opened up. We have four individuals who will be vying for that starting position. But Josh has done a great job. It’s a lot to expect for a true freshman to come in and start in the SEC. He has got great poise, and he’s mature beyond his years. One of the things he needed to do this offseason was improve his weight. He has been able to do that. I believe he’s up to around 210 pounds now. He has done a great job with that, and I’m excited to see the steps he has taken from the Kentucky game to now moving into spring football.”

Back to your 2014 class: Under a new NCAA rule interpretation this year, recruits who were approved for early enrollment were allowed to sign financial-aid agreements (F.A.A.) that gave colleges basically “unlimited contact” until the recruits signed a national letter of intent (NLI). You might’ve been part of NCAA history with wide receiver Josh Malone of Gallatin, Tenn. He signed F.A.A.’s with Tennessee, UGA, Florida State and Clemson and ended up signing a NLI with the Volunteers. What did you make out of that new type of situation in recruiting?  “I think it’s obviously the ability to adapt and adjust to the new rule changes. Our coaching staff did a good job with the new rules and regulations. It was definitely a challenge because there wasn’t any recruiting advantage at all because he had signed the forms with every institution. There were some things I think that really helped us in terms, first and foremost, with just the overall communication process.”

What is your opinion of that new type of recruiting with the F.A.A’s? “I think it allows you to gauge the interest between a student-athlete and your institution, so now when you know that there’s also repercussions behind it if he doesn’t attend your institution. So I think it’s a positive. It allows you to build a relationship with a young man. Obviously I thought it worked out well for us, so I like that.”

Do you think college coaches will vote to change the F.A.A. thing or that it will be around for another year? “I think it will stick for another year.”

Tennessee traditionally recruits well in Georgia. What is your sales pitch to the state’s top 2015 prospects? “We treat Georgia as a home state for us. You look at the proximity from Georgia to the University of Tennessee. This is home territory for us, and I think we’ve proven we’ve had great success with players from the state of Georgia when you look at players like Jamal Lewis, Inky Johnson, Chuck Smith, Deon Grant and I could go on – Eric Berry and Willie Gault. You look at the success now with Ja’Wuan James that he’s having in pursuing his goal to play in the NFL. And Ja’Wuan also has his degree from Tennessee as well. You look at our past history, the proximity, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for the high school coaches in that state and the product that they produce. And they obviously have great players as well.”

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30 comments
Armydawg
Armydawg

"We treat Georgia as a home state for us."  And Georgia treats Tennessee as our.....let's say, "Lady Friend."

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

Listen Ted, I realize you are a Tn homer, but  Jones  has only proven he can recruit. He wouldn't  be  the first

Tn coach to recruit well only to bomb. .Kiffin was a hell of a recuiter . Not much of a head coach.

We hired Kiffin just to make you TN people mad. A little get back for Fulmer.     

Ted_Striker
Ted_Striker

Good article. Jones is a good coach, a tireless recruiter, and the competition in the SEC doesn't get any easier. 

gbal
gbal

ONLY   IN GA  AND THE AJC WOULD THE IN STATE PAPER HELP AN AOUT OF STATE SCHOOL BRAND THEMELVES>>>

YOU GUYS JUST XUS.


I Read 2 FLA papers and they would not promote an out of state school with their press.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

I don't know if Butch Davis and his staff will be able to recruit well enough to win consistently, but that team won't be losing because they didn't work hard enough. 

And there's an article at cnnsi.com about UK's 2014 recruiting class and its strengths. Coach Stoops appears ready to do necessary work in Lexington to improve that team's performance too. 

SEC east will likely be more competitive in the next few years than it has been in the last few.

96JB
96JB

Yes tenn will some some Ga boys. Everyone does, even Saban. Fertile ground over here. This state has some of the best HS football in the nation. 200 D1 players per year and about 40 ANYONE would take. Dawgs can't sign them all. Tenn on the other hand produces about 10 blue chippers a year IF that. Butch HAS to look elsewhere.

96JB
96JB

Butch could work for Obama. Talks a lot, say's nothing.

greenedefense
greenedefense

More power to them! UGA will get the best and leave the rest!!!!

RedandBlackDAWG
RedandBlackDAWG

Georgia produces almost 200 DIV. I players each year, so it is not surprising that coaches from surrounding states have success getting some of these kids. They really only have 2 big schools in the state of Georgia and UGA can't sign them all, and tech. isn't really high on most of their list. Any major college program will take a look at a lot of Georgia kids and UGA takes a look at a lot of kids from out of state as well.

It seems pretty much the normal way things go in college sports to me. The kid has to do what he thinks is best for himself.  Hopefully, not many of them make a mistake like Kamara, but there will always be a few that over rate their own talent and don't know that it takes hard work,  or are easily influenced by one coach or another.

Dawg350
Dawg350

What would be funny is if Tennessee beat Bama....I think they got a chance if they run a hurry up offense! Lmao!

Chuck_UGA
Chuck_UGA

P.S. All the Tennessee coaches have signed Georgia kids. Nothing new here. Georgia can't sign them all, and most of them cannot get into a Tech. However, Tennessee has no chance of hurting Georgia among top players. South Carolina, Auburn, Clemson, Alabama all will sign better players in Georgia than Tennessee will.

Chuck_UGA
Chuck_UGA

Vince Dooley's offense (run, run, run) is the only reason Gault went to UT. Jamal Lewis would have signed with UGA if Jim Donnan could have seen that he was much better than Jasper Sanks. Deon Grant and the DL from SW Dekalb went to UT because of Rodney Garner. Now circumstances are much different now as Georgia is a much more stable and successful program that UT hopes to catch up to. UT will not be able to hurt Georgia like they did when Goff and Donnan were coaching.

Caius
Caius

I recall UT coming into Georgia and signing some of the top players going back to the mid 1960's.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

10RC is coming back and will be a contender in 2015. They will be a handful in 2014.

I know I shouldn't but I LOL at fatboy Fulmer and how it went for that steaming POS on the way out. If anybody deserved what they got then Mr. Doughnut was the one.

SuperWill
SuperWill

 Eric Berry one of the top 10 players to EVER come out of Georgia?


Dont even know where to begin.

Journalists are so lazy and pandering these days.   I wish someone would teach them how to write and understand what they are writing has to have real meaning.
Carvell is a hack.   

badbrad23
badbrad23

Hey caryd, you want Chip for the Tech blog?  Take him please.  UGA fans are used to the one story per week gig...even in season.  Either he's on vacation or those "creative juices" have abandoned him yet again.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

Interesting article Mike,

You do have to ask why Ga can't seal the borders. I think Brother did it when he first got here,

but he is the reason Ga doesn't do it now. They always say recruiting is  50 percent of winning.

However, I don't think Tn will show much success. But then again, success for Tn might be 7 wins.

I guess it is all relative.

Don't ever change Ga, you're right , you are number 1.  

clinchpanther
clinchpanther

we don't give a rats behind about tenn.....  go write for the tenn twitt

RandyHall
RandyHall

Question" Tennesee traditionally recruits well in GA...why"? Why....CMR win a NC and some of those doors will close...TIME TO WIN A NC....CMR!!!

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Pay no attention to gomdawg, at least your writing something. Where is Chip "the Homer" Towers. He hasnt hit a key in a week. Appreciate the read MC!

gomdawg
gomdawg

The last I looked this is Georgia , let's talk Georgia football or tech


Armydawg
Armydawg

BTW, how did Da'Rick work out for UT?

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@Chuck_UGA

You know Chuck, I realize it is not the GA Way, but over those 30 years you go over,

can't you give any credit to the competition? Is it so horrible to admit you just might have got out recruited over those years? It is not weak to admit you might just have gotten beat by a better team.

By the way, I don''t like Dooley, but he could recruit with anybody.   

Chuck_UGA
Chuck_UGA

Brother who? Are you drunk? Reading your post has confused everyone.

RedandBlackDAWG
RedandBlackDAWG

@RandyHall Even if UGA recruited 25 players each year from Georgia there would still be 175 more that would end up someplace else in DIV, I. A NC would help in a few instances but over all, with as many folks as Georgia has that go to DIV. I each year, the difference wouldn't be that noticeable. UGA also does pretty well in recruiting outside of the state as well. Murray, Gurley and Marshall are just a couple of names that come to mind.

Chuck_UGA
Chuck_UGA

@WhiskeyBreath @Chuck_UGAHe could recruit any position except WR.  No good WR's woould sign with UGA when they knew the ball was going to be run left, right and up the middle before a pass was attempted.  Obviously we got beat by better teams, but UGA would have dominated UT in the past if not for UT's past success recruiting Georgia's best.