New Tennessee athletic director John Currie was adamant during an interview earlier this offseason that head coach Butch Jones isn’t on the hot seat heading into the fall.
Currie said Jones has the Tennessee football program “on the right trajectory” after back-to-back nine-win seasons, but CBS analyst and former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel isn’t buying it. Neuheisel was interviewed by Jimmy Hyams of Sports Radio WNML in Knoxville, and he said Jones is “obviously” on the hot seat entering the 2017 season.
“I think obviously he's on the hot sea. You've got a new AD who's listening to all the noise and is going to be watching very carefully. … You've got a 100,000-seat stadium that needs to be rocking and rolling, and that first game against Georgia Tech will be huge.”
Neuheisel did praise Jones’ recruiting efforts since arriving in Knoxville, and he thinks Jones will be in good shape if the Vols sweep Florida and Georgia again this season. But Neuheisel believes Jones’ downplaying expectations for Tennessee is hurting and not helping.
“When he says things like ‘champions of life' and ‘five-star character' or whatever, when you say things like that, it can inflame the fan base,” Neuheisel said.
Jones inherited a messy situation, and his first year was a difficult 5-7 season. But Tennessee has finished 7-6, 9-4 and 9-4 in each of the last three seasons, and the Vols are 3-0 in bowl games under Jones.
However, Jones has yet to lead Tennessee to the SEC Championship Game, and this upcoming season could be a rebuilding year for the Volunteers.
Tennessee opens the season with a game in Atlanta versus Georgia Tech, and they travel to Gainesville to take on Florida two weeks later. Losing both of those games to start the season would be a terrible start for Jones given the hot seat chatter.
(h/t SEC Country)