NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Under the guidance of Head Coach Butch Jones, the Tennessee Volunteers have shown steady improvement.
The team has going from 5-7 in 2013 to 9-4 and a bowl win two years later.
Jones is finally ready to make a run at an SEC title.
“We always talk about in our football program you have to reinvent yourself every single year. You have to be a better version of you and we’ve challenged our players, we’ve challenged our support staff, our coaches and it starts with me first and foremost,” he said.
This year’s team is unique with 11 seniors.
“We’re going to need that experience. Our starting schedule is one of the toughest in the country and there’s a 4-game stretch that’s been voted by some as the toughest stretch in 20 years of Tennessee football. We’re going to need that experience; we’re going to need that maturity but also that competitive maturity,” he said.
Jones had an eventful off season. While he put together one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, a storm was brewing on campus when a Title IX lawsuit centered on cases of alleged sexual or physical assault by student-athletes, some football players reported by eight female students.
A $2.48 million settlement was the result.
“You grow every day and I’ve learned a lot from it and our team has learned a lot from it. Those are situations that are very, very unfortunate but you have to turn them into learning experiences as well. A coach told me being in the coaching profession, especially being a head coach, every day is different,” he said.
Jones has changed the culture at Tennessee.
He has put the Vols in position to win, something that will have to come in front of a massive spotlight on Saturday.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for our student athletes to be a part of the biggest game ever in the history of the game of football in all ranks, collegiate ranks, professional ranks, that’s something that’s very, very special. I think it will be great for our fan base as well but it also puts Tennessee on the national stage as well,” he said.