Vols se­lect Jones to re­place Doo­ley

Ex-cincin­nati coach spurns Man­ning’s job sell on Colorado.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - Butch Jones calls ten­nessee ‘the best pro­gram in Amer­ica.’ COLLIN Klein, Kansas state Why he might win: Why he might not: JOHN­NYMANZIEL, tex­asa&m Why he might win: Why he might not: man­tite’o, notredame Why he might win: Why he might not:

KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Butch Jones was pon­der­ing whether to leave Cincin­nati this week to coach Colorado when he re­ceived a text mes­sage that in­ad­ver­tently fore­shad­owed his even­tual des­ti­na­tion.

It was from Den­ver Broncos quar­ter­back and Ten­nessee great Pey­ton Man­ning.

“He was sell­ing me on Colorado,” Jones said. “He said it was hard for a per­son from the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee to be sell­ing some­body to come to the Univer­sity of Colorado. I wanted to text him back, ‘Come on, I want to go to Ten­nessee.’”

That’s ex­actly where Jones ended up.

Ten­nessee in­tro­duced Jones on Fri­day as its suc­ces­sor to Derek Doo­ley, who was fired Nov. 18 af­ter go­ing 15-21 in three sea­sons. Jones called Ten­nessee his dream job and said he was tak­ing over “the best col­lege foot­ball pro­gram in Amer­ica.”

It hardly mat­tered to Jones that he wasn’t Ten­nessee’s first choice.

“I think I was my wife’s third choice, and it’s worked for 20 years,” Jones said.

The 44-year-old Jones has a 50-27 record in six sea­sons as a head coach. He went 27-13 in three sea­sons at Cen­tral Michi­gan and was 23-14 at Cincin- nati the last three years. He now faces the task of re­build­ing a former South­east­ern Con­fer­ence power that has posted three con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons.

Jones agreed to a sixyear con­tract worth $18.2 mil­lion, end­ing a tu­mul­tuous cou­ple of days for both him­self and his new school. Colorado had of­fered him a five-year deal worth at least $13.5 mil­lion.

Ten­nessee went af­ter at least two other can­di­dates dur­ing the 19-day search to re­place Doo­ley be­fore hir­ing Jones: ESPN an­a­lyst and former Su­per Bowl-win­ning coach Jon Gru­den (not in­ter­ested), and Char­lie Strong (stay­ing at Louisville).

“Rarely in life is any­thing ex­actly what it seems to be,” Ten­nessee ath­letic di­rec­tor Dave Hart said. “Life doesn’t throw us all fast­balls. It throws us curves, and then you’ve got some screw­balls. ... You’ve got to be able to ad­just.”

Jones’ hir­ing means each of the four SEC teams that fired coaches this year has filled its va­cancy.

Ken­tucky hired Florida State de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mark Stoops; Arkansas hired Bret Bielema away from Wis­con­sin; and Auburn se­lected Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn. The Wild­cats quar­ter­back threw for 2,490 yards and 15 touch­downs, plus rushed for 890 yards and 22 touch­downs while lead­ing Kansas State — picked to fin­ish in the bot­tom half of the Big 12 — to a share of the con­fer­ence ti­tle and a spot in the Fi­esta Bowl.

Klein has a strong two-year body of work, can im­press vot­ers with his grit and plays for a well-re­spected and liked coach.

Lost an im­por­tant game af­ter as­sum­ing the Heis­man fa­vorite’s role. The red­shirt fresh­man QB was the SEC’s of­fen­sive player of the year, won the Davey O’Brien Award and led A&M to a 10-2 record and a Cot­ton Bowl berth in its first SEC sea­son. His 4,600 to­tal yards broke the SEC’s sin­gle-sea­son mark held by Auburn’s Cam New­ton — who set it in his Heis­man Tro­phy year. Ev­ery­one loves a Cin­derella, and he fits the bill. Plus, there’s the cool nick­name. And, of course, that huge win over ’Bama.

No fresh­man has ever won. Plus two big SEC losses at home (Florida, LSU). The se­nior line­backer is the best player on the coun­try’s No. 1-ranked team, won the Lom­bardi, Bed­narik, Wal­ter Camp and Maxwell awards and led Notre Dame to the BCS na­tional cham­pi­onship game with his seven-INT, 101-tackle sea­son.

Who doesn’t love his story or his pro­duc­tion? Of the fi­nal­ists, he’s got the best chance at be­ing the bet­ter pro.

No true de­fen­sive player has ever won (Michi­gan’s Charles Wood­son was a cor­ner­back, but also played re­ceiver).

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