Vols' Jones relishes 'fourth-and-1' pressure

June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
11:45
AM ET
First-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones equates coaching in the SEC to it being fourth-and-1 in the national championship game ... every day.

"It doesn't matter if it's recruiting, if it's practice, if it's caravans. It doesn't matter" Jones said. "Everything is at an all-time level."

Jones has been a blur ever since taking the job back in December, and while it's true that he's still in the honeymoon phase of coaching in the SEC (He hasn't lost a game), he's endeared himself to the Big Orange Nation with his energy and the way he's embraced Tennessee's traditions.

It doesn't hurt, either, that he's putting together the kind of signing class in 2014 that the Vols desperately need if they're going to dig themselves out of a hole that has only grown deeper over the last few years. Tennessee has had just one winning season in the last five years and has won just one bowl game over the last eight years.

"Not only are you trying to turn a program around and win right away, but you're also having to do it in the most competitive conference in the country," Jones said. "So it makes it that much more challenging, but that's why you have to stick to the plan and you can't deviate from your plan. You have to focus on the process each and every day. You can't waver, and you just have to put your head down and grind every day."

Grind the Vols have on the recruiting trail. They're up to No. 6 nationally in ESPN's class rankings with 15 commitments. Included are ESPN 150 members Jalen Hurd at running back and Todd Kelly, Jr. at safety. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Hurd was one of the stars last Sunday at Ohio State's Nike Football Training Camp and put on a show with his blend of size, power and athleticism.

There are six four-star prospects committed so far, and Tennessee is in good shape with several other nationally-ranked prospects.

The key going forward, really in the next couple of classes, will be landing difference-makers on the defensive line and replenishing an offensive line that could produce as many as four NFL draft picks next year.

For Jones, he knows there's not a second to waste.

"Every day is football season in the SEC," he said.

Chris Low | email

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