Tennessee was 2016’s heavy favorite to win the SEC East. Tennessee flops. Butch Jones responds: “They’ve won the biggest championship — that’s the championship of life…”
Fast forward to February, 2017. Tennessee comes out of national signing day with a middling result by SEC standards. Two of its permanent opponents, Alabama and Georgia, dominate the final recruiting class rankings. Butch Jones responds:
“We’ve spoken about the competitive nature, and I think that’s really, really big in today’s world,” Jones said. Everyone gets into the whole two-star, three-star, four-star, five-star thing. The only five-star that we even concern ourselves with is a five-star heart.
“We want five-star hearts and five-star competitors.”
I’m sensing a pattern here.
Jones and Tennessee director of player personnel Bob Welton said they evaluate a player’s competitive spirit throughout the recruiting process, and not just on the football field, basketball court or baseball diamond.
The Vols entertain recruits with games throughout their weekends in Knoxville. They play games on campus, go bowling downtown and play ping pong, billiards, corn hole and even charades during trips to Jones’ house.
Welton said Tennessee isn’t just entertaining the players in those situations. He said they’re also evaluating them.
“It could be something as a simple as a corn hole game, but our guys are competing, talking trash,” Welton said. “We watch that. We observe that. We’ve actually shied away from some kids on visits when all these kids are out there competing, and that kid’s over there just sitting. That tells you a lot about a kid.
“That competitiveness, you can’t coach it, and you usually can’t change it once you get ‘em. You can’t put that into a kid. They have to be born with it and live with it.”
I can’t wait ’til Booch proclaims his team the SEC’s 2017 corn hole champions. Is there a bonus for that in his contract?