New University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones spent 10 minutes on the phone Thursday afternoon with Times Free Press sports editor Jay Greeson and "The Zone" co-hosts Jim Gumm and Wells Guthrie on ESPN 105.1 FM. Jones discussed an array of topics about the Volunteers.
Here are the questions and his answers:
Q: First question, how much orange is in your wardrobe?
A: "It's growing each and every day."
Q: You hosted some former lettermen and friends of the program in Nashville earlier this week to watch the BCS title game. How did that go, and how big a hill has Alabama become as you start this new adventure at Tennessee?
A: "First of all, obviously everything in our football program is about our former players. You know, they laid the foundation with our great tradition and built us with the sweat equity, so to speak. We had a great event with more than 70 former players, and we could sit around and watch the national championship game and talk about our six national championships. ...
"When you watch the Alabama football team, that is a football program and no one would argue that. Coach [Nick] Saban has done a tremendous job, and I think they have continued to grow and get better and better. I think a lot of people forget where they were when he first went in there and how they have developed, and now everyone is looking up to them in college football."
Q: How much input will you have on the nonconference scheduling?
A: "Obviously we have a great athletic administration in Dave Hart, and he does a tremendous job. He and I will be involved in the scheduling, and I'll have my opinions obviously, but at the end of the day he'll make the final decisions. But we will be involved moving forward."
Q: The thought of UT buying out the games against Oregon and Oklahoma seems to be a hot topic right now. Do you anticipate to play those series or buying those games out?
A: "Well, you know what, we really haven't even had that conversation as of today because I have been so busy trying to assemble our staff and our current team and the recruitment of a recruiting class. I'm sure once things slow down, we'll visit those, but I can tell everyone that as of today there has been no talk of the Oregon game going away at all."
Q: We had a story in the Times Free Press about how the previous regime lost some connections, especially in-state. You've been traveling for most of December all over the state. Do feel that is going well? And what can you tell us about the recruiting class so far?
A: "I think that's going exceptionally well. We've been challenged by the recruiting calendar, so we've been on the road for less than 10 days. The way it works, you can only have a certain number of coaches on the road. It's a challenge, but make no mistake we are going to start in the great state of Tennessee. We have great high school talent and great high school coaching, and we are the state institution of Tennessee. We are Tennessee. So it's going to stem there and go in the other areas that we've had tremendous success in the past."
Q: Before you became the coach here, you were at Cincinnati and you had discussions with a lot of schools. What happened between the time of looking at those other jobs and when the Tennessee job became available to you?
A: "I'll tell you this. I had a great job at Cincinnati and we won two championships in three years and really had it going. I was blessed to be working with a number of great individuals, and in my time at Cincinnati, I turned down seven job offers from every conference in the country. But when the Tennessee job presented itself, it was a no-brainer. It's a job I've held in high regard, and I grew up on Tennessee football watching from afar in Michigan. So when I had the opportunity I couldn't pass on that.
"I understand that I am the caretaker of Tennessee football and very proud to be its football coach."
Q: At your introductory news conference you said you run the "power spread." Can you explain the power spread and why you think that will be successful? Also, how do you think your personnel at quarterback and wide receiver meshes with that scheme?
A: "You know what, I can tell you that's the first time I've heard 'power spread,' and I like it. We may start using that. The spread offense is a misused term and overused term. What is the definition of the spread? When I think of a spread I think of a finesse offense. I like that term 'power spread.'
"We have to fit our offense to the skill-set of our players. I think the big thing right now is being an up-tempo, no-huddle offense and being able to dictate the tempo of the game -- whether to speed it up or slow it down. We're going to run the football and be balanced and be able to throw the football.
"We're going to be young at a number of positions, but the big thing as we move forward is our offseason strength and conditioning, and at the end of spring ball we'll have a better gauge of where we're at."
Q: If you could envision as good a situation as you can for this fall, what is the one word you hope Tennessee fans will use to describe your football team?
A: "Well-coached. I think there are a lot of things that go into being well-coached, like the way you take care of the football and the way you create turnovers to the way you play with energy and effort and the overall discipline."
Q: Role playing, I'm a four-star recruit not from the state of Tennessee. Tell me why I should come play for you.
A: "There are a number of things. First of all, the opportunity for early playing time. And you're talking about since 1927 the University of Tennessee is the all-time winningest college football program in the country. You look at our NFL tradition; you look at our campus and our academic reputation and the ability to play in front of 105,000 people that wear orange on Saturdays in Neyland Stadium.
"What better opportunity could you get than training in a new $45-million training facility that has every competitive edge you could ask for? You're coming in with a brand-new coaching staff that is one for Tennessee and we're going to win. So are you coming to Tennessee?"
Q: That doesn't sound like the first time you've used that pitch.
A: "No, that's what we have -- a great proigram to sell and a great brand. And I'm excited about how the recruiting process is going."
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...