Butch Jones: UT Vols' new hire won't bring 'major overhaul' to offense

Tennessee coach Butch Jones is doused as the team defeats Iowa 45-28 in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee may be changing offensive coordinators, but head coach Butch Jones and the Volunteers have no plans of making drastic changes to their offensive system.

During an interview with Football Scoop Radio on ESPN Baton Rouge on Sunday night, Tennessee's third-year coach spoke to what he's looking to accomplish as the Vols look for a replacement for Mike Bajakian.

photo Mike Bajakian

The only offensive coordinator Jones has employed in eight years as a head coach, Bajakian resigned on Thursday to become the quarterbacks coach for the NFL's Tampa Buccaneers.

"For us, we're not looking for a major overhaul offensively," Jones told Football Scoop Radio. "We're just looking to enhance our system. Going into year three and playing the inordinate amount of freshmen that we had to play last year, now they understand the system.

"The thing we can't do is go backwards and spend our time installing a new offensive system. We have to be able to enhance it, continue to grow and elevate it. That's where we can spend more time on the fundamentals and the fine details of what it takes to play winning football."

At Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee, Jones and Bajakian used an up-tempo spread offense reliant on a good ground game, and in the past, Jones has used the term "power spread" to describe his offense.

With the Chippewas and Bearcats, Jones had running quarterbacks like Dan Lefevour, Zach Collaros and Munchie Legaux at his disposal, but he's tweaked his system with less mobile quarterbacks like Brendan Kay at Cincinnati and Justin Worley with the Vols.

In Tennessee's last six games of 2014, Josh Dobbs ran for 469 yards and eight touchdowns.

"It's a great opportunity to improve upon what we're building here at Tennessee, and it's an opportunity to get better. I'm very excited for the opportunity that Coach Jake has, but for us it's being able to bring in an individual who can elevate everyone on our staff. Everything is about fit.

"The outside world wants to look at resumes and who's the hottest thing going -- there's some great offensive coordinators out there -- but for us, everything is about a fit within our staff."

For most of the weekend, former Central Michigan head coach Mike Debord looked to be a primary candidate for the Vols' vacancy. The 58-year old former Michigan offensive coordinator was in Knoxville this weekend meeting with Jones, who was Debord's running backs coach (2000) and offensive coordinator (2001-03) with the Chippewas.

Debord had two offensive coordinator stints (1997-99 and 2006-07) at Michigan, where he's now an administrator for Olympic sports. His last season at the college level was 2007, and he spent the next two years under Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora Jr. with the Seattle Seahawks. Debord's last coaching job was as the tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears.

Asked about some of his coaching mentors on the show, Jones mentioned current head coaches such as Rich Rodriguez (Arizona) and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), former NFL coach Jon Gruden, former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, former Vols quarterback Peyton Manning and -- interestingly -- Debord.

Jones also stressed the importance of his new hire fitting in with Tennessee's current staff and being able to recruit and develop quarterbacks.

"We obviously want an individual that's been a coordinator before, that's called play in meaningful games and meaningful situations, but also an individual that maybe can bring some knowledge by coaching multiple positions," he told the show.

"It's all about getting better as a staff. Even though you have a coordinator, everything we do is about staff involvement. When we present the game plan on game days, that's hours and hours of work behind the scenes by our offensive staff, and we have tremendous coaches."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.