Embattled Tennessee Volunteers Head Coach Butch Jones will attempt to circle the wagons Saturday as his team faces off against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium.
Monday, Jones was on the defensive coming off of a 17-13 win against UMass. To say their performance was underwhelming, is an understatement.
“I’m the caretaker of Tennessee football,” Jones said during his two-minute answer. “I’m here to develop and grow a football program, recruit the best possible student-athletes to represent the University of Tennessee and win football games and graduate our players. That’s my responsibility. I take that very seriously.
“But also I love our kids and I’m gonna protect our players, and I’m gonna protect our program. Sometimes the negativity is overwhelming, and if everyone is Vol fans, how do we let our opponents use that in the recruiting process with fake news?”
This isn’t fake news: 1999 was the last time Tennessee defeated an SEC Top 10 opponent at Neyland Stadium. During that season, sixth-ranked Tennessee beat 10th-ranked Georgia 37-20. Furthermore, Tennessee is 0-24 in all games against Top 10 foes going back to the start of Fulmer’s final season in 2008, will be trying to end that drought when the 7th ranked Georgia Bulldogs comes to Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
It is clear in 18 months, the ‘Dawgs under Kirby Smart have accomplished more than Butch Jones has done in five seasons at Tennessee. The Georgia defense that was bereft of discipline now has the cutting edge and killer mentality that was sorely lacking during the Mark Richt administration. Smart did not go back to Athens with a bag full of catch phrases, slogans and bumper stickers. He instilled a winning attitude, a sound running game and with quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm, an ability to manage the game and not be overzealous with the football.
Furthermore, it was at Neyland Stadium where Georgia running back Nick Chubb injured his knee in 2015. He certainly wants to right the wrongs of that fateful afternoon.
Meanwhile, The Champions of Life may lose their championship belt this Saturday. Peyton Manning says he’s fully behind Butch Jones. However, does he possess the 12-guage shotgun Sosa had when he ended Tony Montana’s life? Tennessee cannot afford to keep a mediocre head coach that hasn’t produced anything resembling a championship contender in five years. Coupled with the gains South Carolina and Vanderbilt has made, it’s even more damning that Jones has made it past the Florida game.
Saturday may write the final sentence in Jones’s obituary. If the Volunteers win, nothing shall be celebrated.