UT's Butch Jones quickly has built a solid foundation of support

Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 10:21pm

Butch Jones’ mantra has been so well received that Tennessee fans have smuggled bricks across state lines.

Determined to restore the Volunteers football program to its former glory, the first-year coach has compared the rebuilding process to laying a foundation on a house – brick by brick.

And the UT faithful are taking that quite literally.

Not five minutes into signing autographs at the 2013 Big Orange Caravan’s final stop in Franklin on Thursday, Jones was handed an orange brick from Clement Ledbetter. The Tennessee alum and Nashville native found it on the banks of the White River in Cotter, Ark.

Though the slab is from enemy (Razorback) territory, Ledbetter’s not worried about bringing over any bad mojo.

“That’s why it is orange instead of red now,” he said with a smile. “We haven’t really had much to be excited about the last three years. So when he started the brick-by-brick trend I thought it caught on and it made me get really excited. Watching his videos from practice and how he runs around and is all over the place, I think he is the best thing that has happened in 10 years to our program.”

To build a powerhouse that can last, Jones has preached meticulous planning and commitment from all players in the UT revival.

He developed the brick-by-brick approach one day when he looked out his office window and watched the construction of the football program’s new home – the $45 million Anderson Training Center. As the patio unfolded, Jones noticed the importance of each building block.

“If they forget to lay one brick or one brick isn’t properly aligned, it is out of place and they need to start to the project over,” Jones said. “It is just like building a football program. Everyone has to be totally aligned. I always speak about total alignment. Whether it is our support staff, training staff, equipment staff, coaching staff or our players, we’re looking for everyone to be all aligned. That’s kind of where the ‘brick by brick’ started and it is the basis of a foundation.”

Jones arrived at Tennessee after head coaching stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Unlike jumping into a Volunteers program in turmoil, he took over those programs when they already were on the rise.

At both earlier stops Jones replaced current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. He stepped into places not in need of reconstruction but a good tenant to maintain the success and add to it. He did just that with four conference championships and 50 wins in six years.

Whether he has a reclamation project in him remains to be seen. But Tennessee fans like they what they see so far.

With less than two months at his disposal, Jones compiled a 2013 signing class that Rivals.com ranked 21st in the country. Already he and his crew have picked up 12 verbal commits for 2014 to contribute to Rivals.com’s third-best class in the nation.

“Tennessee football right now has a lot of momentum and a lot of energy,” Jones said. “I think it is being felt not only within the great state of Tennessee but throughout the country.”

Among the commitments is Hendersonville’s five-star running back Jalen Hurd. Jones emphasized the significance of attracting Nashville talent and establishing relationships with their high school coaches.

“It is critical,” he said. “Obviously there are great high school players in this region and area but also great high school coaches. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the football here. It is all about relationships. With all this, we are the University of Tennessee. … We are the state institution of Tennessee. We want individuals who have an infinity for the University of Tennessee and they know what they’re representing. I think that is big for us.”

What the UT faithful hope Jones represents is a welcome change.

After three straight losing seasons for the first time in more than 100 years, the Vols desperately want to see progress — quickly.

“I sense the hunger. I sense the expectation, the standard but that’s what you want,” Jones said. “Our fans have been outstanding and they’ve actually really energized me. Coming in and having sold-out environments like [Thursday] that’s what it is all about.”

The buzz and excitement isn’t lost anyone at Tennessee, including other coaches in the athletic department.

Men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin joined Jones on the caravan, which stopped in Memphis, Chattanooga, Kingsport and Atlanta. The third-year coach was amazed by the outpouring of support, not to mention bricks, that Jones received.

“There were two [bricks] in the truck when I got into the truck when we got off the plane,” Martin said. “I think it is a great gesture. I think the fans have really bought in. Butch is doing a tremendous job of selling it to everybody. Everywhere we go somebody is bringing bricks. Hopefully they don’t take one off my house.”

7 Comments on this post:

By: 4gold on 5/24/13 at 8:13

Big Orange Rocky Flop. Dead man walking. So fake. Why so much time in middle TN? Hmmmmmh? UT should have kept Pillsbury Phil. This guys personality makes me want to leave the room with a finger down my throat.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: 4gold on 5/24/13 at 8:17

Big Orange Rocky Flop. Dead man walking. So fake. Why so much time in middle TN? Hmmmmmh? UT should have kept Pillsbury Phil. This guys personality makes me want to leave the room with a finger down my throat.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: Badbob on 5/26/13 at 8:10

LOL 4gold. Vandy beats UT once in 30 years and you think you are God. It's fans like you that keep me from ever cheering for Vandy... a school that had to ban parties before and during football games just to get students to go.

This article is the reason Vanderbilt will never compete with UT. No matter how much better you think you are, Vandy cannot recruit against UT. No top recruit wants to play in front of a half empty, third rate stadium with no TV coverage. CBJ and his staff know how to recruit, and they have the money to fly the entire coaching staff to one recruit's house, if they want. They have the staff to be in the right place at the right time, to pick up a defensive end who was dropped by SC because they had given his scholarship away before he busted his butt this past semester and brought his GPA up.

The Vol football team just had the highest GPA average of any semester in the past 12 years. There are 46 team members who will be wearing the Torchbearer on their jersey next year because they have a 3.0 GPA. CBJ teaches the same thing about schoolwork that Pat Summit does. That Tom Osborne does. That John Thompson does... yeah, I'll take him over Fulmer, who started letting the patients run the asylum.

This, my friend, is how you demonstrate that Vandy fans know nothing about college football. And this is why UT will come back quicker than you imagine. CBJ is not just coaching his team - he is giving lessons to everyone in the state of Tennessee and every UT fan anywhere else.

Let me just ask you one more thing. How many VU alumni with NFL experience were at VU's spring game? The NFL alumni formed a T for the players to run through onto the field at the Orange/White game. Bill Wade is one of the finest people I have ever met, but you know, he needs 20 other NFL/Vandy alums lining up beside him.

By: 4gold on 5/26/13 at 9:59

Badbob, LOL,UT just had the highest GPA in 12 years because the Offensive line was sleeping with the education coordinator. Don't you read the paper? Just another slime factor that keeps me from pulling for my state school. State schools are 25,000 to 35,000 students. VU has 5,000. students and has no need for an overbuilt stadium. UT is so overbuilt, added on to, patched together mess you are too far away to see a game anyway. Not a bad seat in the house at VU. AND it is as nice as any I have been to. UK, UT, AU, MS, Miss. State schools just like to put VU down because they are small. Nashville should be ashamed they don't fill a 40,000 seat stadium for a school doing a fine job. Instead spending sports dollars at a probation riddled slime factory like UT.
I am in Hoover AL enjoying the baseball tournament and whats this? UT is one of only two teams that did not even make it to the tournament. So enjoy your ancient history Bad Bob. That and womens sports are all you have. Support the City that supports you. Nashville Sports Rock!

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: Vuenbelvue on 5/26/13 at 4:55

A wall foundation is layed with Concrete block. The block are 12" wide or 8" wide by 1'4" long and 8" high. Then sometimes filled with concrete. It is layed on a concrete footer. Brick is a veneer with standard brick layed against a stud wall or block wall. They are different sizes but standard brick are nominally 4" by 8" long. They are not used for building a foundation. Go Alabama

By: Badbob on 5/26/13 at 7:08

Poor, poor guy from a little bitty school. I guess you could fill a bowling alley watching the girls, :)

"not a bad seat in the house"... LOL, unless you are a Commodore.

Pushed any UT women fans down the stairs lately?

By: 4gold on 5/26/13 at 10:57

A little bitty school that is doing better than ;half the SEC including UT. Enjoy your girl sports.

From Knoxville papers. Here they go again at UT slime factory.

"The biggest concern here for the Volunteers is that Wright was conducting or helping mask academic impropriety for basketball players. A sordid sex scandal is newsworthy enough, but if academic cheating is involved as an undercurrent, this may have much grander implications for the program and the university.Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!" and how many football players. Uh Oh! There goes that GPA.