Losing three games in a row and falling out of the top 25 for Tennessee has reportedly led to a players only meeting, which might mean some bad news for Butch Jones.
A number of reports suggest that Tennessee football’s players are possibly quitting on their head coach. The existence of the meeting has been confirmed by Jayson Swaim but what happened during it is speculation. Talk about mutiny, rebellion, and some key players like Jalen Hurd and Jonathan Kongbo really frustrated with the way they’re being used. Overall, there seem to be conflicting reports about the camps and about players invested in what Jones is trying to do (like quarterback Joshua Dobbs, a senior) opposed to those who seem to be growing tired of the direction Jones is taking the program.
@SwainEvent any merit to this news about a team meeting tonight?
— Adam Brown (@brown8436) October 31, 2016
More than anything, it seems Tennessee players are letting reality hit them in the face. The talk of contending for the SEC and a playoff place has turned out to be premature. The Vols have improved each season under Jones, from 5-7 in 2013, to 7-6 in 2014 and 9-4 last season, including a ranked finish on both the AP and Coaches Polls. But with 3 losses in conference play already, they can only match the SEC record from last season, regardless to who they’ve lost to.
And that should be a key part of the discussion. The only loss that should actually be troubling is to South Carolina on the road. The losses to Alabama and Texas A&M? Tennessee just aren’t good enough to take them on. But Jones has done a good job recruiting talent to Tennessee, and seems to have taken them one step further compared to where the program was when he got there. Is the blowout loss at home to Alabama and the close loss in Columbia the reason they should panic?
Maybe there’s more to it. Tennessee, despite climbing to number 9 again in October, have yet to put in a strong performance against a quality team. They did beat Florida and Georgia, both ranked at the time (Florida still are) which showed a shift in the direction of the program, and Tennessee did have a convincing win in the ‘Battle for Bristol’ over Virginia Tech, who are a good teams as well. But they haven’t stomped on anyone, and there seems to be something going on behind the scenes we might not be aware of.
We’ll say this about Jones: He’s only 12-17 with Tennessee in the SEC, and when you take away wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt, the minnows of this conference on an almost annual basis, it’s only 7-17. Tennessee have 3 remaining SEC games this season: Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Missouri, which could help them get to a 9-3 record before bowl season (they also play Tennessee Tech), but the SEC East is gone for them, and it means that the leap everyone was expecting to see didn’t happen.
How at risk is Jones? Probably not at all, unless the talk of players rebelling and mutiny is true. Tennessee are scarred from previous decisions when it comes to coaches, and Jones overall has improved, at least based on record, each season. If the program starts falling back (which could happen with Dobbs leaving), then his seat will get hotter. Right now, assuming Tennessee win out to finish the regular season, he’s safe.