©2013 NPT PHOTO BY SETH BUTLER Tennessee coach Butch Jones faces the media during his first appearance at SEC Media Days earlier this week at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama. Jones is preparing for his first season as the Tennessee football coach when the 2013 season kicks off on August 31 when the Vols face Austin-Peay.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
(Last modified: 2013-07-21 18:09:36)
Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

HOOVER, Ala.—Since taking the reigns as Tennessee coach in December, Butch Jones has been on a mission to return the Vols back to the top of the Southeastern Conference.

Jones has quickly united a broken program and fan base that has been through turmoil since its last appearance in the SEC Championship Game in 2007. In the same realm, Jones also has Tennessee as the hot name among recruits across the country and has many poised for a rise to the top for the Vols program.

Jones has preached his championship vision for the Vols to anyone and everyone willing to listen since replacing Derek Dooley last year.

“We talk about building a championship culture, working to get Tennessee football back to its rightful place among the elite of college football,” Jones said during his session at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama this week.

However, the first-year Tennessee coach know that his vision for a championship program in Knoxville will be a slow process. With four coaches in six seasons, and powerhouses now springing up across the league, the job to win a title is now tougher.

That’s why Jones has continually referenced the brick by brick foundation to reestablish Tennessee atop the SEC. The often used phrase by Jones, who has marketed his sport like former UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl, has now became a rallying cry for Tennessee fans and coaches on social media to emphasize the recruiting process for 2014 and beyond.

“We talk about (putting Tennessee among the elite) brick by brick,” Jones said. “That’s not a fancy slogan, we really meant that as every brick is symbolic of every individual in our football family and our football organization.

“It’s having clearly defined and articulated standards, expectations and values that are going to guide you on a day-to-day basis,” Jones said.

In order to become a championship program, however, Jones had sought buy in from his current squad. While recruiting for the Classes of 2014 and beyond are critical to the program’s future, the current crop of Vols has had to mold to the expectations of Jones and his staff.

Keeping a high level of accountability, which was a key in the Vols academic success in the spring semester, in the program is a key to success according to Jones.

“Before we could ever think of being a championship football team, our team had to be comprised of individual champions,” Jones said. “That’s the way they conducted themselves, the way they were champions in the community, the way they went to class, the way they performed in our off-season strength and conditioning program.”

While Tennessee, picked by SEC media to finish fifth in the Eastern Division this year, is not near a championship level, it hasn’t stopped Jones from imploring the necessity of the mentality that will propel the Vols to that level. The performance of the current team in spring practice and offseason drills, has been part of an emphasis by Jones in reintroducing the Tennessee standard at which helped propel the program to its championship standard in the 1990s.

“It’s not a culture change, but it’s just an emphasis on how we’re supposed to work,” Tennessee defensive lineman Jacques Smith said. “Throughout the years of the coaching changes, I think the standard of which Tennessee was supposed to be at was lost and coach Jones brought it to our attention.”

Jones knows that the Vols must return to that standard that defined the team during their championship run in the late 1990s. After all, the current landscape isn’t the SEC that Phillip Fulmer dominated during that decade of dominance. Instead now, the league has fielded the last seven BCS National Champions and is filled with top-flight level coaches.

“Being in the SEC every day is a grind, every game is for a championship,” Jones said. “So we’ve talked about having that toughness that we need.”

Jones hopes that the development of his team off the field, will help them on the field, when the season kicks off in 42 days on August 31.

“We talked about taking the identity that they were building off the field and applying that to their football identity,” Jones said. “We focused on the small details of what it takes to actually play wining football. We really focused on that process. I thought that we left spring football obviously a much better football team.”

It’s those small details that Jones hopes can help building the championship culture brick by brick.

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