Butch Jones

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Tennessee to open spring without safety Micah Abernathy, seven others

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The Tennessee Volunteers may need to start asking for volunteers to get through the spring if the start of the offseason practice schedule is any suggestion. On Monday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced eight players on Tennessee’s roster will be ruled out for the start of spring practices. A handful of others will be limited as well.

According to Saturday Down South, those players are safety Micah Abernathy, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden, defensive linemen Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle and Kendal Vickers, wide receivers Josh Smith and Brandon Johnson, and offensive lineman Brett Kendrick. The reason for those players being listed as out is not reported, but Jones suggested they are simply not in shape to go all in this spring at this point.

“We need to get them back at full strength,” Jones said. “I do think there will be competition.”

While these players may be down and out for the spring, there is no reason to fear they may be unavailable in the fall. Jones seems optimistic all players will be back and ready to go over the summer, which should be an encouraging sign. Abernathy also tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.

Abernathy was Tennessee’s second-leading tackler in 2016 with 69 tackles, including a team-high 52 solo tackles.

Vols add UNC DB coach Charlton Warren to coaching staff

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Following a somewhat disappointing season in Knoxville, changes are in the air for the Tennessee Vols coaching staff. Among the first changes of the offseason comes at the defensive back coaching position.

Tennessee has announced the addition of Charlton Warren as the new defensive backs coach for the Vols. It is the same role he previously filled at North Carolina for the past two seasons. Warren will replace Willie Martinez, who will not be returning to the Tennessee staff in 2017, according to a released statement from the university’s athletics department.

“Coach Warren is a passionate, knowledgeable and driven football coach that has an outstanding history of developing defensive backs on the collegiate level,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said in a released statement. “He also has a great reputation as one of the top recruiters in the country with strong ties to our recruiting areas. We feel extremely fortunate to add someone of his caliber to our coaching staff and our defensive meeting room.”

Tennessee finished ranked 10th in the SEC in passing defense, allowing an average of 230.7 yards per game through the air to opposing quarterbacks. The Vols allowed the fifth-lowest opponent passer rating and picked off 11 passes while allowing 18 touchdown passes, which actually fared well among SEC peers even if just around the middle of the pack or just toward the bottom half of the conference in each category. For a school that prides itself on its defensive backs, a change was necessary.

North Carolina owned the ACC’s top pass defense in 2016, allowing just 180.8 yards per game and 11 touchdown passes. The one downside was having just one interception recorded in 13 games. Every other FBS program had at least three interceptions last season. How UNC only picked off one pass all season long is quite a remarkable feat considering how respectable the pass defense was last season.

Tennessee and Butch Jones celebrate life championships while Alabama and Florida compete for SEC

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In truth, there are things far more important than college football. That appears to be the message of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, who says his players have already become champions of life after being locked out of a shot to play for the SEC championship in Atlanta next week. Alabama will face Florida in the SEC Championship Game for the second striaght season. The Gators clinched the SEC East with a win at LSU, thus locking out Tennessee form a shot at the division crown.

You can understand the point jones is trying to make by saying that no matter has or has not happened on the gridiron this fall or the past four years, the senior class at Tennessee will leave the program as strong individuals ready for whatever comes at them next in the NFL or life after football. You want your head coach to be able to prepare players for life after college, but in a season in which Tennessee was the preseason favorite in the SEC East and this was supposed to be the year the Vols take advantage of a down division, the comments by Jones do little to satisfy those rooting for the Vols, who have been starving for an SEC championship and more.

But this is what Jones does to reach out to his players and connect with recruits. Selling a message like this is essential for some in college football, but ultimately the message comes across better if, you know, the team wins an actual championship on the field.

Tennessee let an SEC East Division slip right through their hands this season and will go back to the drawing board in 2017 looking to find a way to take the next step that appears to be a steep one for the program under Jones. But at least they’ll all be life champions.

Tennessee AD Dave Hart trusts Butch Jones

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A day after Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was said to be accused of calling a former player a traitor in legal documents, Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart defended the football coach of the Vols.

I trust in Butch Jones implicitly,” Hart said during a press conference Thursday, per The Tennessean. The press conference was scheduled before details from a federal lawsuit suggesting Jones mishandled a former Tennessee football player who had helped an alleged victim of sexual abuse.

Former Tennessee wide receiver Drae Bowles was attacked days after lending his help to an alleged victim of sexual assault allegedly committed by former Tennessee football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. The plaintiff in the lawsuit claimed Bowles was then called a traitor by Jones and ostracized by Jones and the team afterward. Jones reportedly called Bowles to apologize for the alleged traitor statement, and reports suggest Bowles previously claimed Jones handled the situation properly. This is the claim of the plaintiff, not Bowles.

Jones issued a public statement late Wednesday in response to the information revealed in the latest legal documents made public.

“The assertion that I ever attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another person is absolutely false,” Jones said in his statement. “To the contrary, I did all I could to assist the former student in question. During the course of the judicial process, campus officials, as well as the young man’s own words, will clearly establish that I have done nothing wrong. I will fight all of these false attacks on my character, and I know that once this process has been completed, my reputation will be affirmed.”

Tennessee issues statement following latest lawsuit details

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It was another rough day for the University of Tennessee today with two more plaintiffs joining the federal lawsuit against the university and head football coach Butch Jones being accused of calling a former player who assisted an alleged victim of sexual assault a traitor. This evening, the university issued a fresh statement to address some of the more recent concerns unraveling today, a day after the school’s head coaches from the athletics department held a joint press conference to defend the university’s reputation.

“The University has reviewed the amended complaint filed today by the plaintiffs and we continue to stand by our actions. The facts, as opposed to allegations in a complaint, will demonstrate that the university acted properly in the matters at issue. We have continuously worked hard to improve our processes and procedures to ensure that we are doing all that we can to prevent incidents of assault, to support victims of assault, and to pursue justice while enforcing due process for those accused. We will vigorously defend all claims in the amended complaint. The University is issuing this statement to lessen the potential harmful effects narrative the amended complaint has on the university’s continuing efforts to encourage survivors to come forward and report sexual assaults and its efforts to educate students about the issue of sexual assault. The University will not allow this lawsuit to detract from those efforts.”

Noticeably absent from Tuesday’s joint press conference of head coaches was athletics director Dave Hart. He is scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday afternoon.