KNOXVILLE - Butch Jones says it's the busiest time of the year for him and his assistant coaches.
That's because pretty much the entire calendar fits the bill for Tennessee's football coach.
Even mid-May qualifies, when the only classes being held are part of the mini-term, the three-week limbo between spring-semester classes and summer school, and campus is its quietest other than during Christmas break.
"This actually, first of all for the coaching staff, is one of the most hectic times of the year," Jones told the Times Free Press in his office Wednesday.
"With our calendar," he added, "I look at it, there are no off days. People would think this is the time where you catch your breath, and it's quite to the contrary. This is really the busiest time of the year right now for us."
One look at the calendar the coach keeps, inside a black, three-inch three-ring binder to which he often refers, would convince even the staunchest skeptic.
Jones flips from month to month, and it's difficult to find a blank day in the near future. There are Big Orange Caravan stops and other speaking engagements and camps for high school recruits. One June weekend is slated to be the "Orange Carpet" weekend, which is sure to attract plenty of visitors.
As Jones flips through more of the binder, his meticulous organizational skills come to light.
He's jotted down notes for upcoming team meetings and various to-do lists. Already he's planned the agenda "down to the minute," he says, for team meetings for preseason camp three months away. For August's camp practices, Jones has many of them mapped out, and he's written down what team-building exercises to execute and what situations need practicing.
"I'm trying to look at my calendar to free up a date or two to get down to Miami to support Coach [Erik] Spoelstra and the Heat [in the NBA playoffs]," Jones said of his friend, "and I'm concerned about the dates because when you look at my calendar, there's something every single day."
Since spring practice ended a little more than a month ago, Tennessee's coaches have been visiting prospects and handing out scholarship offers and building relationships they hope pay off with faxes in February.
"Right now our coaches are out on the road recruiting, and they're all over the country," Jones said. "They're not seeing their families [except] for maybe a weekend here and there. This is a critical time in the building of our future recruiting classes. This is kind of a stressful time from that regard. We have a number of unofficial visitors every day and on weekends.
"There are no weekends off during this time because of the unofficial visitors."
As for the current team, more players have decided to stay in town for mini-term classes than usual to gear up for the summer workout program.
"This is a great time to really focus on your academics, get a jumpstart on the summer, get ahead academically, but also bond with your teammates that stayed for mini-term and get a jumpstart on your strength and conditioning levels," Jones said.
"When we start up at the end of May and the first part of June, it's every bit as hectic for them, because now they're taking six credit hours, they're in a structured strength and conditioning program. This is the first time now, with the rule change, that summer is mandatory. It's not voluntary anymore. That's another big thing."
With all the recruiting, planning and organizing, evaluating, teaching and public relations to do, there truly is no such thing as an offseason for Jones and those in his program.
"Really to me," he said, "the season's starting."
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