Johnny Majors on Butch Jones
Johnny Majors has been a proponent of Butch Jones since he first heard him speak shortly after being hired in December. A recent visit to Jones’ practice only reinforced Majors’ opinion of the first-year Tennessee head coach.
“People wouldn’t understand what they’re doing there unless they see it with their own eyes,” said Majors, who played for Tennessee from 1954-56 and was head coach at UT from 1977-92. “It’s absolutely fascinating and phenomenal. I don’t think anybody had better tempo on the practice field than we did when I was coaching because I was coached by great people…Nobody does it better than Butch Jones and his staff. I’ve never seen a practice with more tempo, more excitement, more teaching and it’s not just talking.
“They’re teaching while they talk. I had a saying when I was coaching: ‘Coach on the run. Talk on the move.’ Don’t stand around. They move as quick as anybody as I’ve ever seen and I’d say better than anybody maybe in the country.”
Majors isn’t alone. He’s one of many former UT players that have commented on Jones’ up-tempo practice.
“When the whistle blows, Coach Jones says ‘Period’s over’ and they move like a bunch of ants going to build an anthill all at one time and the managers already have the drill set up…Those managers have to work their rear ends off,” Majors said. “It’s really a spectacle to see. I love how they do it and how they’re going about it. They are getting things done the way they should be done.”
Majors said publicly that he liked what he heard from Jones shortly after he was hired. That was even before he met the former Cincinnati coach, having said he thought Jones was “believable.” Jones’ recruiting has further enforced Majors’ opinion of Jones. Meeting him has done the same.
“He’s so intense, so sharp and he’s sincere and straightforward,” Majors said. “I’ve always gotten excited about football season starting all my life but this is special to see what he’s doing here. His staff is right in step. It’s almost like watching the Marines drill…They are like the Prussian Army and the American Marines. They get it done and get it done right.”
Majors and Jones have something in common. Both have used volume to motivate players who aren’t getting the job done. Majors was famous for chiding players with a bullhorn high atop a tower used to overlook practice. Jones uses a portable microphone piped into several loudspeakers to point out players not keeping up the pace.
“He talks consistently during practice,” Majors said. “He has to be very sharp and smart. He’s on top of as much as anybody I’ve ever seen, commenting on drills, who’s loafing and who’s not loafing.”
Majors was also known to occasionally suffer from laryngitis, especially in preseason camp. Jones has also sported a raspy voice at times during the first full week of practice. Majors will gladly trade a raspy voice for an enthusiastic coach any day.
“I think it’s a major factor for the head coach to display great enthusiasm and energy,” he said. “I reacted when things were bad. I didn’t have a very good attitude when things were bad. I got their attention and I wanted to get their attention.
“I had a reputation among some people that I was tough to work for. Yeah, I was tough to work for if they didn’t get the job done. I wanted to get it done then and not tomorrow or the next five minutes. I wanted it done then.”
By all indications, Butch Jones and his assistant coaches are a cohesive unit. Majors said they seem like “peas in a pod” on the practice field. That, unlike UT’s last staff, has helped players believe in Jones’ new system.
“Sure you can tell in practice by the way they move around and the tempo [that they believe in their coaches],” Majors said. “There’s just no place to loaf out there. There are too many eyes on you…Yeah, they believe. Right now, I guarantee they’re a 100-percent more confident than last year.
“We don’t know how they’ll do and how many games they’ll win. But I guarantee you this, there will be a difference in knowledgable football people…They’re not going to count themselves out. The coaches aren’t. You’re optimistic people if you’re a winner.”
Butch Jones can fix some things immediately. He can improve practice tempo and recruiting. However, he can’t immediately raise the talent level throughout UT’s roster
“It’s been going downhill a long time,” Majors said. “It wasn’t just the last four years. It takes some rebuilding. I know what it takes to build a program. It takes work, patience and recruiting. Talent-wise, I think they are limited in talent in certain places but I know they’ve already moved some freshmen up the depth chart in practice.
“They’re not as talented as some of the people they’re playing against, against several people they’re going to be playing against in my opinion. It’s just not there, but they’ll be better conditioned. They’ll know how to pursue with better angles. And if they’re knocked down, they’ll get up and chase the ball. They won’t lie around on the ground.
“They’ll have better ideas about how to get to the football and what to do when they get there. How to tuck the ball away. For years here, we haven’t been able to catch punts…We’ve let more balls bounce and give the opponent yardage for years around here. It’s just the little things that win for you and close that gap. The main thing is doing the little things and they’re being taught that now.”
Majors knows there will still be tough Saturdays ahead for Jones and his staff. That, however, can be chances to continue to build the program.
“Good coaches are going to come back ready to go the next week to get better,” he said. “This team, you can recognize how well they line up, how well they come off the ball and how well they hustle. They’ll have better pursuit angles, I guarantee you on that. They might not win more games but I’m not counting them out.
“Mark this down. John Majors is telling you that Coach Jones and his staff will get it done.”
To hear my entire interview with him, click HERE.