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UT coach's sales pitch wows ex-players also

7:45 AM, Jun 1, 2013   |    comments
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By Tyler Whetstone, The Tennessean

Butch Jones hasn't coached his first game for Tennessee, yet his arrival in Knoxville and a renewed excitement around the football program have been well documented.

Jones has been a winner everywhere he has coached, most recently at Cincinnati. The major question regarding Jones at Tennessee was whether he could recruit with the powerhouses in the SEC.

On Friday at Music City Center, several former Vols football players spoke at the 2013 Music City Sports Festival and addressed those questions. Yet before they even took the stage, Jones had corralled another commitment, bringing UT's total to 15.

The Vols held the No. 1 spot in's 2014 college football recruiting rankings as of Friday.

Even though signing day is eight months away, the process begins now, former UT kicker James Wilhoit said.

"This isn't something where you can just have one good recruiting class and you're back. It's going to be a process," he said. "You're really going to have to fight to bring it back."

Tennessee has not had a No. 1 recruiting class, according to, whose recruiting records date back to 2002. Rivals says that Tennessee's best recent recruiting class was the 2002 group, rated No. 2 overall.

For many Vols fans, those 11 years have been too long a wait.

"I think (Jones' staff is) benefiting from coming after a staff (where they) kind of saw things the staff did not do so well," former defensive back Buck Fitzgerald said. "They've taken those negatives and tried to turn them around by doing those specific things well."

Former Vols wide receiver Jayson Swain said Jones is leading the way into a new era.

"It (comes down to) coaching. ... You've got to motivate your players," he said. "You've got to have your players playing for you willing to be able to run through a brick wall for you. ... Butch Jones gets it."

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