Feb. 5, 2014
Head Coach Butch Jones
"Before I start off I would like to give many thanks to all the individuals who really helped today become a reality. There is so much that goes into assembling a recruiting class, a lot of behind the scenes individuals. But it starts off first and foremost with our coaches. Our assistant coaches did a tremendous and outstanding job, you look at all the identifying and the building of relationships. In this recruiting class, the relationship building and the trust factor has been over a year in the making and I think that is evidence by basically no drama today. I think that speaks volumes for our coaches and the way that they build trust, the way that they build relationships, not only with the prospective student-athletes or their families but also the high school coaches. Thank you to all the high school coaches of our signees, to all of our newcomers, that really, really helped us throughout this process.
"The coaches' wives, they become sometimes the father figures of our children while we are out recruiting and the countless hours we spend, and again there is a lot that goes into it, our coaches' wives. People in our university community, starting with Dave Hart, Jimmy Cheek, everyone for really allowing us to have the facilities and the vision to be able to track the very high caliber student-athletes to the University of Tennessee.
"The professors, the many advisors that would give up their Saturdays, their Sundays, their weekdays, their evenings, to spend with our prospective student-athletes and their parents. The Thornton staff, led by Dr. Joe Scogin, Brian Russell and everyone, again the countless hours that they put into it. One of the selling points in this recruiting class is the academics and the Thornton Center.
"Our recruiting department, led by Bob Welton, Dana Morrison, Scott Altizer and Brandon Lawson and all the behind-the-scenes individuals that really made this a reality. So much effort that goes in behind when these individuals come on official visits, we are really selling them what the University of Tennessee has and the great city of Knoxville.
"The MVP, the Tennessee air force, I say it every year, but this week they were instrumental. All the great donors, who very willingly gave their planes, I can't tell you where we would be without them. This year we were a little behind in terms of the recruiting calendar. As everyone is probably well aware of is that the recruiting calendar was cut short by a week. So we were down a week in recruiting, so it was catch up after the dead period expired. So to be at different places, when you recruit nationally you can't have any wasted time. All the elements, Mother Nature, from being stuck in Atlanta and trying to get out of there and them actually flying a plane in to get Coach Gillespie and I and having about two minutes to get out, I have never been a part of anything like that before. Many thanks to all of their hard work and their efforts.
"To our fans. Our fans are the best in the country and they do such a great job of creating a lot of positive energy and a lot of pride that just reinforces the importance and magnitude of Tennessee football. It is not just in the great state of Tennessee but nationwide. Every single individual in our signing class was present for game day atmosphere, they were able to take in and feel that positive energy by our fans and our fan base. Even our local media. Sometimes we forget that we are all on the same team. The parents, every single one of our student-athletes, they read the newspaper. They want to see how supportive our media is of the Tennessee football program. They want to see how the fan base is supportive. We had some kids that wanted to be dropped off at the ball. All they wanted to do was walk around the mall and say hi to people and see how they would respond to them. Parents were the same way, walking into a gas station, all of the people being friendly and asking questions, tell me about the Tennessee football program, that was their evaluation tool, seeing how people would respond. Going into local establishments. All of those things are critical when you are selling a brand like we have here at the University of Tennessee.
"UTSports.com. That today was amazing. I don't think people understand the magnitude of effort that goes behind that. I left the office yesterday at 10:30 at night and everyone was still working and setting up for today. They arrived today when I was still in bed at 4 a.m. and they were in there setting up. Barry Rice, Link Hudson, Sara Mitchell, Donald Page, they do a tremendous job behind the scenes individuals that never get much credit.
"When we started off on this journey of assembling this recruiting class, we have a very strict recruiting profile. We call it the Tennessee recruiting profile. It encompasses many things. The first in order is the individuals character. What are their grades like, what are their academics? How do they value a college education? The overall character of this prospective student-athlete.
"Then we get into competitive character. Our football program, we must have competitive greatness in everything that we do. That relentless approach about each and every day. They we get into position specifics, broken down by specifics. The next thing is a toughness level of everything that we do. We talk about being Tennessee Tough, we want tough, smart football players. The next thing we get into are the measurable, obviously, height, weight, all of the measurable that you look for.
"And then football makeup. You live it, love it, or like it. We need individuals that live football everyday. Another thing in our recruiting profile is that we want individuals that understand what it is to live the power T. That understand the expectations that come along with representing a storied program such as the University of Tennessee. That was big on us. You look at our in-state recruiting. I want them to understand our rivalries. I want them to understand our great former players. I want them to understand what it means to represent this state. You look at the legacy players, we venture off into other areas that are basically our home bases for recruiting.
"I feel that we were able to attract that in this recruiting class, we feel this class with represent Tennessee in a very positive manner on and off the field. One of the things that we looked at is size and speed. Make no mistake about it, a few months ago I sat up here and told you in order for us to move this program forward, we needed to create depth, we needed to create competition and we needed to improve our overall team speed, our size, our quickness, our explosiveness. I believe we were able to do that.
"However, I want to guard against all of the expectations that are going to come with this recruiting class. We have to still remember that these are 17-18 year old individuals. It is like raising your children. Everything is about their personal growth and development. Each individual with mature differently. We are going to be an extremely young football team this year but I am excited because I think we will be youthful, but very skilled and very talented. I just think it is very unfair to put a lot on the shoulders of this recruiting class, as we know this class will probably be judged 2-3 years down the line.
"I think we were able to address a lot of the immediate needs and one of the biggest advantages of this class are the 14 early enrollees. You cannot put a value high enough on putting mid-year enrollees in your football program. First of all they get a jump-start on college life, academic workload, what it is to be in an off-season college strength and conditioning program. They get to bond with their teammates. They get to understand the standard, the expectations that come along with playing at the University of Tennessee. It is invaluable. They have added another element in terms of competition, competitive spirit, which leads me to the last thing.
"Our current players became the greatest ambassadors we had in our football family. When players come on campus they are always asking the players what is it really like? The parents do the same thing. Our greatest ambassadors are our current players. They did an outstanding job of really selling our mission and our vision on where we are going with Tennessee football."
(On this class being used as a statement)
"We talk about doing everything with a relentless approach. Whether it is recruiting, academics, or champions in the community. I think it is just a part of the relentless approach. Our assistant coaches have done a tremendous job. These were highly recruited individuals, but that doesn't make them any better football players. For use to get back to the elite level in the SEC, we have to be able to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the country. I felt that we were able to do that this year."
(On how recruiting has changed this year)
"I think it changes every year. Every year brings a whole different dynamic in recruiting. This is the closest group or recruiting class that I have ever been associated with. You really look at the loyalty that they exhibit. A lot of these individuals have been committed for a very long period of time. Not very many of them even too other visits to other institutions. I thought they showed tremendous loyalty and great passion, but the closeness is really unique. I think it's the amount of unofficial visits to campus, but I also think the nature of recruiting with all the different camps these individuals now go to and all the all-star games, you start to develop bonds and friendships. Like I said, this class is extremely close. Then Twitter, everything in terms of social media helps us accelerate that process as well."
(On realizing the need for defensive lineman)
"I realized it right off the get go. The one thing we needed to improve was size and big bodies, and we also like individuals who are multifaceted, which means they can either play offensive line or defensive line. We know that there is a shortage of big bodies in our football program right now. That was a point of emphasis. To be able to attract the type of individuals that we were able to, it is very pleasing, but now it is up to us to develop them. That was great need in our football program, but we are still not where we need to be. That is the other thing, even though it is a large number, we are not going to improve and fix all of our deficiencies in our football program in one recruiting class. As a coach, that is one of the things you have to guard against. We have needs across the board. One recruiting class isn't going to fix it, but it helps. I think what we will be able to do now is develop depth and develop players at every position."
(On the time recruiting takes)
"It is a 365 day process. There are no off days in recruiting. That is where being cut short on the calendar in recruiting, you try to balance getting into as many high schools as you possible can. When you take a week out of recruiting with the long, extended dead period, we basically had to go and re-recruit this recruiting class. Then we had individuals in different schools coming in and offering all of our committed players. That was very time consuming as well. It is non-stop. It is on to 2015 and 2016. It is never ending."
(On how the high number of recruits signed worked out)
"It is very simple. I think it was really made too much out of, but all we were really able to do was count numbers backwards and count a couple of numbers forward. We had a plan when we came in here. I spoke about that recruiting profile. It helps that when we came here last year, not only for myself but also for the entire staff, it had been our third time taking over a program. We weren't going to comprise in anything in the recruiting profile. We did not use all of our scholarships last year. We were able to count those backwards because we knew that this was going to be a great recruiting year within our state of Tennessee and also throughout the course of the country. We were able to do that."
(On counting the numbers forward)
"Well sometimes an individual will delay their enrollment for a semester. Everything about today is celebrating everyone that is coming in. People made a big deal out of it, but it is really nothing. The SEC approves everything we do. It is a matter of where we are at in terms of the numbers plan that we have had in place for over a year."
(On having three running backs in the class)
"That was an area of need. It is good to bring in three individuals like Jalen, Treyvon Paulk, and Derrell Scott. This is a physical league, and you need to play a number of running backs. To be able to bring those three individuals, it brings competition and depth amongst that group, which was obviously critical. That was the one area where we really felt we needed to improve on."
(On Jalen Hurd and Treyvon Paulk both coming off of injuries)
"You always look to that. That was another reason for why we felt we needed three running backs. Both Jalen and Treyvon are right on schedule. They are doing a great job with their rehab. We fully anticipate Jalen, barring any setbacks, to be ready for spring football. Treyvon is doing a great job with his rehabilitation as well."
(On judging recruits superior to their high school competition)
"That is one of the things that you really have to try and dig deep and research everything about their competitive nature. That is why some individuals develop differently. You also, within that recruiting profile, you take into account the level of competition they are playing. We try to research everything. Do they play multiple sports? If they play basketball, we like to go watch them play, but if we can't watch a game, then we like to watch them practice. In the spring, if they play baseball or run track, we try to see them in different elements of their competition and try to assess that. Then you try to gather and talk to as many people as possible. I liked to talk to opposing coaches. I will call opposing coaches, and I will ask them about an individual. I will ask different players that played in all-star games against them. We are always trying to work that element of finding out the competitive factor."
(On when he knew how special this recruiting class is)
"Right off the bat. They're great character individuals. The process started with Vic Wharton. Vic was an individual we had a tremendous relationship with. We had offered him at the other school that we were at, we had him in camp at that other school, and we came to a number of games, so we knew everything about him and his family. We challenged him to champion this recruiting class. And then Todd Kelly Jr. did a great job. When you're assembling a class, great players want to play with great players; they want to be associated with great players. For Coach Martinez to walk in and talk to a defensive back and say, `Every day you're going to go and practice, you're going to go against Von Pearson, you're going to go against Josh Malone, you're going to go against Vic Wharton'. That's pretty attractive because that's going to help their overall development as a football player. So we started to sell the talent of the class as well.
"I knew it was going to be a special class right from the get-go, and then when we would lose a game or two, they would call me and say, `Coach, we've got your back. We're not going anywhere. We're committed to getting this done.' In society today, it's an instant gratification society. Everyone wants things now. It's no different with recruits. It's easy for kids to say, `I'm going to go to school A, or school B because they're winning right now.' It takes a different, special person to say, `I want to go to this school because I want to be the difference. I want that ownership on our class, on me to get Tennessee Football back to its rightful place.' So when we're talking about competitiveness, that's one of the things I looked at. Will you accept the responsibility of getting this football program back? That's what I liked about all of these individuals. When we had some setbacks this season, they didn't flinch one bit."
(On the exceptional recruiting in the SEC)
"Well, it's the nature of our conference, and that's why it's the most competitive conference in the country. I don't think what people really understand within the SEC, it's the weekly grind; there are no off weeks in our conference. In everything you do, you compete. Whether it's on the field, off the field in recruiting, it's the best of the best. It's the best fan bases. It's the best game day environments. And that's what makes coaching and playing in the SEC special and also very challenging."
(On recruiting success in Nashville this year)
"We talked about it, if you remember December 7th back at the introductory press conference. We spoke about wanting to own our state. This is the state institution. This is the University of Tennessee and it is very, very special. We represent a lot of individuals in this great state. We wanted individuals from this state to represent Tennessee, and the mid-state; the Nashville area had a lot of talent. It was very exciting to be able to go in there and get the players that we coveted out of there. Staying true to form, we want to build this program with home first talent, and then venture off. Every great program starts with securing its home state, and we have to do that each and every year, and I am very excited to be able to do that this year."
(On differences in recruiting Nashville compared to last year)
"It has always been great, but I think probably the greatest thing that summarizes the culture in Nashville is we announced our Signing Day Luncheon on our website, and within two hours the entire luncheon was sold out. Nashville is a tremendous, tremendous recruiting area for us, it's home to a lot of our passionate fans, and obviously it is very important to us.
(On ultimately deciding to not add a QB to the class)
"We went back and forth. I think it gets back to, first of all, the recruiting profile of what we were looking for in terms of a quarterback. We would have liked to, but when I looked at the state of our program and where we were at, I feel very comfortable with the quarterbacks that we have in our football program right now, but also we needed big bodies. We needed size and speed, and it gets back to you're not going to correct everything, or you're going to have to sacrifice one position for another, and I thought we have very good youth at that position, and that could afford us to put that scholarship towards another position and move it forward.
(On the lack of drama on signing day)
"Well, when I say not a lot of drama, you still, as a coach, never feel good until that fax comes in. I was still as nervous as I have ever been. The last commitments came at midnight and this morning. We had individuals that were sent scholarship offers by other schools that they had never even visited before. So I think you saw the state of college football today, you had individuals switching on signing day, and I think that's where our coaches did a tremendous job of building that loyalty, building that trust, and building that togetherness. So you never feel good until the fax comes in, but our coaches did a tremendous job of really securing the class."
(On going head-to-head with different SEC schools)
"No, recruiting is recruiting, it's based off of relationships, the only thing I would probably say is that it's a little bit more accelerated, there are no off days, really there are no off hours, you are constantly recruiting and monitoring everything and again I would say probably just the overall velocity in terms and manner in which you are recruiting and just constant and never-ending."
(On the recruiting rules changing)
"That was very challenging, but we also had a plan in place so we were able to adjust and adapt and move on but we had that plan in place for the entire year so all of a sudden, now when you are in the middle of it and it is January and that changes, you have to be able to adapt and adjust and we were able to do that and our compliance office does a tremendous job here - we have a compliance officer right in our football office so everything we do has to be approved through our compliance office and they do a great job and it's a great resource so we are able to midstream adjust and adapt and adjust I guess."
(On number of planes available for recruiting)
"I really don't, but it sounds like you're looking to donate your plane so if you have one. Scott Altizer does a great job of really doing my travel and a lot of the coach's travel but again I don't know the exact number of it, I can get that for you but again these individuals were amazing - we're talking about being able to make a call and need a plane in 30 minutes, being in Atlanta and being in the middle of the snowstorm and your sitting there, you know you pull over to the side of the road and your waiting and waiting and you find a mall, we walk into the mall, and it's 2:30 p.m. and people say we're closing at 3:00 p.m. and then they come out and the security goes coach we will let you stay here until 6:00 p.m. so now we are staying here until 6:00, and they tell us you have 30 minutes to get to the airport and the airport is about 10 minutes away, thank God for where we were at, but we get there and literally the pilots are helping us get our luggage, and I knew there was a little bit of a panic when I said, "Do I have the time to use the bathroom," and the pilot looked at me and said coach, "Can you go on the plane." So I knew we were able to go and we were about two minutes away from not being able to takeoff, and I had to be in Florida and so they have to fly me back to Nashville, get another donor plane, and then fly me to Florida, and I got into the hotel with Zach Azzanni about 11:00 at night and had to be at a couple schools and then board a plane at 10:00 in the morning and get back to Nashville, so it's all moving parts and pieces when you're dealing with mother nature and all that, and they've done a great job."
(On Michael Sawyers being a great addition)
"A great add to us. Michael will compete right away at our one-technique and he has great hands, great feet, he has a defensive mindset which we talk about so to be able to add an individual of his stature, of his caliber, and also from Nashville and Ensworth was really, really big for us and kind of got my adrenaline flowing when I got that call at midnight and I didn't go back to sleep since then, but that was a great pickup for our defensive line."
(On improving team speed with this class)
"Well, I think the first real indication hopefully that you are going to see in the improvement of our team speed will occur in special teams. That's where I think you'll hopefully see the first improvement, just our overall speed in special teams, but you look at the Berry twins, Evan and Elliot, we had them both in camp and just like twins one ran 4.41 and the other ran a 4.42 so you know to be able to add them, and we have already talked on our offense outside the numbers at the receiver position, you look at our linebackers with Dillon Bates, Gavin Bryant, Chris Weatherd, you know you look at those individuals, Jakob, we've really improved our speed, and then up front defensively, and then we spoke about the running back position so I really do believe we improved our team speed, now it's going to be how this class develops over the summer months to be in-game ready for Utah State. Thank you."