First some thoughts on our new hire:
Butch Jones is simply a good hire. His product speaks for itself. A 50-27 record is all that some would need to know. What I look for in a college coach consists of a few things:
Number one, can the coach relate well with players and effectively recruit? I think the first answer is fairly evident. His players love him. In an early meeting in Cincinnati, his previous players gave him an ovation. They realized that he deserved a better job. They loved their coach and wanted him to succeed. The players knew how hard he worked every single day. He earned his player’s respect, and has the charisma and ability to relate with players that not all coaches have: Hint – His predecessor at The University of Tennessee.
His recruiting ability, while being closely scrutinized by some, is in reality better or on par with his predecessor at Cincinnati.
2006 – 8th in the Big East, or effectively last.
2007 – 7th and tied for last with Temple.
2008 – 6th in the Big East.
2009 – 4th in the Big East.
2010 – 3rd in the Big East.
2011 – 3rd in the Big East.
2012 – 5th in the Big East.
This may have much to do with the program not being as successful before Dantonio and Kelly establishing the recruiting base which is noted by the annual increase in recruiting rankings. Jones however, never fell from 5th .
Number two, does he have a relatively high level of energy? As the previously linked video showcases, Jones is an upbeat, motivated, and animated guy. This does not mean that he has to be Mr. Wonderful. We aren’t always happy. But, you must maintain this in the presence of his players, media, and fellow employees. If so, it isn’t all that out of the question for the players to take on a collective persona of their head coach. I think Jones easily meets this requirement, and as he stated in the press conference earlier today, “I always tell our players, `What are you selling today? You’re either a fountain or a drain.”
Number three, can he evaluate and project talent? As we have seen in recent years, highly sought after recruits have turned for the worst and been terrible producers. His body of work suggests he knows talent. Also in addition to this, he produces out of those that aren’t highly sought after. This is tremendous coaching. Armon Binns, John Hughes, Jason Keece, Isiah Pead, Adrien Robinson, and Derek Wolfe are all Jones-era Cincinnati players in the league as of now. Pead consistently had great production. 2011, anyone? He had 155 yards on 14 carries against the University of Tennessee. Yeah, you read correctly, 11 YPC.
Number four, does he have a great knowledge of the game and a desire to learn more about the game? According to Coach Jones, he does. “If you want to be best, you want to compete in the best and obviously the SEC is the best football conference in the country. I have many good friends that compete at this level, on the center stage and I look forward to it.” Jones wants to be the best. Not just as a program, but as a coach. As for the knowledge, this not only relates to the talent evaluation and projection but also his ability to analyze, game plan, and coach up his players. This would also in my opinion, be categorized in the ability to adapt schematically based upon the players you have within your program.
From his days at Cincinnati forward, I looked at his various levels of production from running and passing:
402 rushes for 1880 yards
rushes per game – 33.50
yards per game – 156.67
251/435 for 3128 yds
attempts per game – 36.3
yards per game — 260.7
500 for 2321 yards
rushes per game – 38.46
yards per game – 178.54
223/399 for 2699 yards
attempts per game – 30.2
yards per game – 207.6
From 2010 to 2011, there is a 98 rush increase. The passing attempts went down from 36.3 per game to 30.2. Why? He had Isiah Pead. He utilized what he had to win. He adjusted. As Coach Jones insinuated in the press conference, good coaches direct schemes around the players they have.
464 rushes for 2397 yards
rushes per game – 38.67
yards per game – 199.75
193/346 for 2722 yards
attempts per game – 28.8
yards per game – 231.0
(Not including The Belk Bowl) What can we conclude from this? You’ve got 53 less pass attempts and 23 more passing yards. He lost Zach Collaros. Legeaux and Kay are different quarterbacks than Collaros. Thus, the passing game was adjusted. This is another example of excellent schematics and game planning. Does he meet this test? I believe he certainly does. His pedigree would also suggest success. Urban Meyer, Brian Kelly, Mike DeBord. All renown offensive minds. I don’t think Jones will be any different.
Number five, does he consistently improve year to year?
2007: 8-6 1st in the MAC
2008: 8-5 2nd in the MAC
2009: 11-2 1st in the MAC
2010: 4-8 7th in the Big East
2011: 10-3 1st in the Big East
2012: 9-3 1st in the Big East
It looks as if he does. Unlike our previous coach, he does not have an 8-5 season followed by a 4-8 record. We’re also talking about a Cincinnati team that is 15 points away from being 12-0 in the current season. The 2010 team lost a slew of talent. Most importantly of all, Tony Pike, Mardy Gilyard, Jeff Linkenbach, Ricardo Matthews, and Mike Windt. All in the same class.
In summary, I believe that Butch while not being the best name or more specifically, Jon Gruden, is an extremely solid hire. Yet, the jury is out from this point forward. For years to come, we will judge him by what he did at The University of Tennessee. Not only is this any other hire, but this is our hire. A hire that could make or break a program for years to come. I can only ask for our fans to give him a chance. Support your coach until proven other wise. I’m not asking you to be subjective and a homer. You can be as objective as possible, but within this is respect. Respect for his work at previous jobs and his respect for desire to improve our football program. Derek Dooley, while given the benefit of the doubt, had a losing record. This guy doesn’t. This guy, Butch Jones has coordinated offenses at major college programs. This guy doesn’t have a famous father for a coach nor a law degree to acquire jobs. He doesn’t wear flamboyant pants, or speak the southern dialect. But, I can tell you one thing, Butch Jones has won everywhere he has coached. I think the odds are in our favor.
Dating back to the first beginnings of this great sport, we have seen coaches take their fair share of success or failure. Some of it, deservingly so. Some, not so much. For example, Dave Clawson. Derided as he was in Knoxville for the putrid offensive production, he has consistently scored at will at other coaching stops. Much as this is to do with the inability of the coaching staff, and for that much, head man (Fulmer) to fully accept his scheme. Instead, you get a mixture of previous terminology, concepts, and coaching points. Clawson never got to implement what he envisioned. Rather it was an integrated disaster with Fulmer overriding the play calls in the middle of the season. Another example, Tony Franklin. Derided and mocked as an offensive buffoon by many Auburn fans for his largely ineffective offense. A long term coach, keeping the old-guard coaching staff, and refusing to allow Tony to utilize what he saw as need be. Sound familiar? Thus, a beleaguered head coach looking for a scapegoat pointed fingers in attempt to save his job. This also sounds familiar. Fast-forward a few years later and you have a Franklin protégé, Neal Brown, leading the Red Raiders. Franklin has been vindicated in recent years. Why? In the modern game, Franklin has directed his offense around concision. This does not mean that yes, even a caveman can do it. Nor does this imply that these offenses should be easily stopped or simply beat by superior athletes in larger conferences. In truth, his offense allows players to play by instinct and not have to spout out play calls longer than most player’s family tree. Rather than installations that take up to a week or longer with a variety of concepts, the players are coached up on fast, concise, and efficient practices and installs. This applies to many of the offenses scoring en masse across the country. Whether that is Noel Mazzone, Dana Holgorsen, Franklin, or any vogue offensive guru. Now, you may be asking, why is this even being talked about? What do these people – Mazzone, Holgorsen, Franklin, have to do with next season and the Tennessee offense? Butch, like these other coaches has a fairly concise collection of concepts and most importantly, within these concepts, are protections – not in a literal, pass protection sense, but as in packages or conceptual design.
From the press conference:
“Offensively, we are going to be a team that takes care of the football. We are going to run a no-huddle offense. I don’t like to use the term “spread,” because I think that the word “finesse” is associated with that.
“We are going to be a physical style of offense and be a pro-style offense.”
When I analyze this statement I can come to a few conclusions:
1. Fumbles and interceptions will subsist at a low percentage.
2. Butch Jones will run a no-huddle offense.
3. He knows that utilizing the term, “spread,” is unpopular, while “pro-style” is not.
As I stated in a previous thread:
What does spread even mean? Anyone? Does it refer to personnel? Are we talking about 11, 10, what? West coast offense teams used it as a formation within Eagle personnel. Does it refer to huge line splits like Leach? Downhill running with power and guard pulling? Inside zone and wide zone stretch plays? Vertical stemmed passing trees? Alley screens, bubble screens, jailbreak, what? Freeze checking no-huddle? It seriously is a joke that people like Gregg Easterbrook have labeled offenses as this or that and the average fan has picked it up. Spread could literally mean anything. Malzahn has made a living off of hand sweeps, inverted veer and power/counter. These other teams are zone to the core. It blows my mind how anyone can sit here and label a team “pro-style” simply because they go under center. I’m not sure if anyone has noticed but half of the “pros” are running offenses out of gun as a majority percentage now. Spread is a term that in some shape or form has creeped into the minds of fans as a puny, weak, minuscule team that can’t compete with the big boys. Nevertheless, one cannot even define spread because the term has been used so liberally, that no one knows a true definition. Moreover, to appeal to the average fan, Jones will use the “Pro-style” title to describe his offense.
I took the liberty to analyze the Vanderbilt-Cincinnati game from the 2011 season. As follows is my analysis of what I think Butch, as an offensive guru will implement here:
1. An offense revolving around the gun. Every single snap of the Vanderbilt-Cinci game was in shotgun. Every snap. This is his philosophy. This is the philosophy of one of his closest assistants, Mike Bajakian. I firmly believe Bajakian will be one of his first hires here.
2. An offense exclusively directed around 1 back or less. In the Vanderbilt game, the following personnel packages were used:
(Note, in football terms, the first number is the number of backs and the second corresponding number represents the amount of tight ends. Those two numbers subtracted from 5 is the amount of receivers.)
00 – 0 backs, and 0 tight ends
10 – 1 back and 0 tight ends
11 – 1 back and 1 tight end
12 – 1 back and 2 tight ends
12(T) – 1 back and 2 tight ends plus an unbalanced line
This is it. Absolutely one back, all out of gun.
3. A running game geared toward zone and the 4/5 and 8/9 holes. Butch Jones absolutely loved zone reading the ends with his quarterbacks and halfbacks. His entire running game revolves around inside zone, outside zone, and the stretch. A few counters and draws exist, but very little guard pulling.
Double teamed tackles and the back running toward the boundary outside the Y on the 8 hole.
4. A passing game geared toward vertical stems. Most defenses in the modern game have a built-in option or pass coverages that pattern read. Pattern reading allows the defense to predict concepts packaged together by initial steps in a route. For example: If a potential receiver were to take a horizontal step to shallow out their route or run a diagonal concept, the defense might pair this together with another route within the play that is used to create a concept. Routes that move in this fashion are the easiest to predict. Concepts like Drive, Shallow, or Mesh would be the easiest to prepare for.
Instead of this, Butch utilizes hitch routes, comebacks, digs, posts, option reads and other routes that launch vertically off the field. Concepts like 4 Verticals, Smash, 90 – a hitch on the #1 and seam read on the #2 receiver, would be ideal concepts. This idea, he took from Brian Kelly, which in return leads me to believe that this will be difficult for Nick Saban to deal with. Saban is the absolute master of pattern reading. I think this will also be an advantage for the upcoming seasons.
4 Verts with an Option Route tagged from the H:
5. A no-huddle approach. Like other no-huddle teams – Texas A&M, Louisana Tech, and Oregon, Butch Jones will implement an offense that has various degrees of tempo. Within this tempo the team will never huddle. Plays will be called in from the sideline or through wristband. With largely 3×1 and 2×2 sets the defense will horizontally be stretched. Utilizing the no-huddle approach, a lot of similar formations will be called or simply flipped.
Two plays on the same exact hash with flipped formations:
Flipped, 25 seconds later:
This simplicity allows for a lot of repetitions in practice and allows the offense to control the tempo and personnel of the game.
As for the sideline system, this is similar to what Gunter Brewer did at Oklahoma State, Chip Kelly at Oregon, and Gus Malzahn at Auburn. This idea allows for the sideline to utterly confuse the other team and get out calls and concepts as fast as possible.
The Quarterback looks to the sideline:
The 4 signalers plus the board:
Every thing involving the play call is showcased to the line, QB, and receivers. Formation, protection, and routes.
Malzahn’s system, while different, works in a related mechanism:
This board method, is not only creative, but light years ahead of many offenses where the quarterback repeats play calls from the offensive coordinator in the booth who relays it to a play caller on the field. In closing, I think that our offensive production will be fantastic. Particularly with a dual-threat quarterback.
I hope you enjoyed this read. I’m always fascinated with offenses and football, so I figured I’d write my opinion on Jones and in a sense, answer some questions on his offense. (Well, more like obsessed with football. )
Give me some feedback if you guys want to read more.
tl;dr version - Butch Jones is a good hire and his offense is ahead of the curve.