It's 100 Days until it's Football Time in Tennessee...
Kickoff of the 2013 season is now 100 days away, and to celebrate, we here at Rocky Top Talk will spend the next 100 days sharing 100 of our favorite things about Tennessee Football. This is less of a countdown and more of a celebration of the things we love, the things we remember most, and the things that keep us coming back even when everyone is telling you not to get your hopes up too high for this season. You'll read about players and coaches, games and seasons, individual moments and our greatest traditions, plus a bit of random as well as personal stories along the way. And at every point along the way, we encourage you to join in the conversation in the comments. A series like this is a great way for you to jump in with our community if you're a long-time listener, first-time caller. It's our way of looking back and looking forward.
And so we begin today with the newest and most important piece of the puzzle. Butch Jones has been a part of Tennessee Football for a little less than six months. Let's consider what we liked about our last three head coaches six months on the job:
- Lane Kiffin: Assistant coaches! How 'bout that incoming class! He picks fights with Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier! Not Phillip Fulmer!
- Derek Dooley: Not Lane Kiffin! Says britches! Great last name! Let's talk about Barbara some more! Told that one reporter off about former players at practice, boom! That hair! Not Lane Kiffin!
While there's still a certain part of us that may want to celebrate Butch Jones because he's Not Derek Dooley!, what we've actually seen from Jones at this point does offer the best of what we liked about Kiffin without us having to be defensive about the rest of what we thought we liked about Kiffin.
What we love most about Butch Jones is Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class, currently ranked 4th in the nation by Rivals
. The stat alone is impressive for a team that ranks 79th nationally in winning percentage over the last five years. But it's not just the numbers, it's the names: the legacy kids like Todd Kelly Jr., Vic Wharton, and Neiko Creamer. The in-state talent, including the biggest piece of the puzzle in running back Jalen Hurd. And the ability to go national, something Tennessee needs to be able to do to succeed: the class currently includes commitments from four star tight end Daniel Helm from Illinois and four star defensive back D'Andre Payne from Washington DC. The 2014 class is set up to rebuild Tennessee Football perfectly, and Butch Jones has taken full advantage of it.
We also love Jones because he's a smart guy, and he's saying and doing the things fans and former players want to hear. He's had Peyton Manning, Arian Foster
, Eric Berry, Jamal Lewis, and Leonard Little around the team already. That's a pretty good start. And right now he's doing the Big Orange Caravan around the state and the south and saying the things everyone wants to hear about the things that will be on this list in the next 100 days: the maxims, the fight song, the color orange and what it means to wear it. Butch Jones cares about the things we want him to care about.
Two other things are also true: some of us will embrace our coach simply because he's our coach; I'm currently typing this in a BUTCH t-shirt I bought two weeks after he was hired, before the 2014 class started rolling in and we went from frustration to expectation. That orange pullover thing he's wearing up there? I've seen it already in Alumni Hall, because he wears it all the time and now so can you! Butch is our guy, and we ride with him until we don't want him to be our guy anymore, and hopefully that day never comes.
The greater truth is wins matter more than anything else in this sport, we haven't played any games yet and aren't projected to win many of them this fall. But Butch has enabled realism while injecting a healthy dose of confidence and optimism, and that's a significant accomplishment. He has us enjoying the present but most excited about the future, and that's exactly what Tennessee Football needs right now, and should be enough to keep him safe and warm until the future becomes the present and we can see what this guy can actually do with all the talent he's bringing in.
We were a little late to the honeymoon because we thought we wanted to marry someone else, someone famous with a local background and land in the area. Instead we got the guy who wanted us all along, who has done just as much if not more than we thought the other guy would, and right now the honeymoon is great with the future even brighter. And our love for Butch Jones grows.
And so we begin our countdown with the new guy, in the hope that years from now his name and the program will be much closer to the top.