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SEC Coaching Rankings: No. 9 Butch Jones

With the SEC season less than four months away, here’s a look at how the conference’s coaches rank in 2015.

Bio: Butch Jones achieved success at each in his three head coaching stints. He won two Mid-American Conference championships at Central Michigan (2007, 2009) and two Big East Championships at Cincinnati (2011, 2012). Jones was also named Big East Coach of the Year in 2010.

He joined Tennessee’s staff in December 2012 as the third head coach since 2010 (excluding Jim Chaney’s one-game term as an interim). The Vols went 5-7 in Jones’ debut season, but bounced back with a 7-6 record in 2015. Tennessee made its first postseason appearance since 2010 and captured its first bowl victory since 2008.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (intern)
Rutgers (GA)
Wilkes (OC)
Ferris State (RB)
Ferris State (OC)
Central Michigan (TE)
Central Michigan (WR)
Central Michigan (RB)
Central Michigan (OC)
Central Michigan (RB)
West Virginia (WR)
Central Michigan

Reason For Ranking: Jones has the potential to open 2016 at a much higher position, but his No. 9 ranking is acceptable based on his body of work thus far. As a Tennessee alum, he was the hardest coach to rank impartially. I’ve seen the progress he’s made since taking over for his inept predecessor, Derek Dooley, both on and off the field.

Jones has signed two consecutive top-5 classes and salvaged a depleted class in his first two months. The 2014 class was a monumental accomplishment coming off a 5-7 record. Entering 2015, Tennessee is a growing national brand that continues to gain attention.

If this list was based solely on potential or recruiting, Jones would be top-5. However, his win-loss record thus far validates a No. 9 ranking, which is progress from entering the SEC as a “lesser known” candidate.

2015 Schedule: 

09/05/15 vs. Bowling Green Nashville, Tenn. TBA
09/12/15 vs. Oklahoma Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
09/19/15 vs. Western Carolina Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
09/26/15 at Florida * Gainesville, Fla. TBA
10/03/15 vs. Arkansas * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
10/10/15 vs. Georgia * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
10/24/15 at Alabama * Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
10/31/15 at Kentucky * Lexington, Ky. TBA
11/07/15 vs. South Carolina * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/14/15 vs. North Texas (Homecoming) Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/21/15 at Missouri * Columbia, Mo. TBA
11/28/15 vs. Vanderbilt * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA

2015 Outlook: Tennessee has a young roster and faces its most favorable schedule in several years. The Vols roster is filled with sophomores and juniors who gained experience by playing through the 2014 season and should continue their development.

Joshua Dobbs has emerged as a potential star and should challenge Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott as the conference’s top quarterback. Jalen Hurd has the talent to challenge Georgia’s Nick Chubb and LSU’s Leonard Fournette as the conference’s best sophomore  running back.

Tennessee boasts the SEC’s top returning pass rush duo in sophomore Derek Barnett and redshirt senior Curt Maggit. Tennessee has talent on both offense and defense, but must improve in the trenches, having allowed an SEC-worst 43 sacks and 101.0 tackles for loss.

Jones should continue his progress by extending his win total from the previous season and keep the Vols in contention for an SEC East title. If successful, he will be regarded as one of the top coaches in the conference.

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