HOOVER | Butch Jones is charged with bringing stability to a Tennessee program that has had just one winning season in the last five years.
Jones is Tennessee's fourth head coach since the 2008 season, not counting Jim Chaney's one-game turn as interim coach to end last season after Derek Dooley was dismissed. Jones takes over after a successful three-year stint at Cincinnati.
The Volunteers have suffered through the end of Phil Fulmer's reign, the one-year tenure of Lane Kiffin and a failed three-year term by Dooley. Jones inherits a team that returns six offensive starters and just three on defense from last year's 5-7 squad, but he has high hopes for the program.
"We walked in the door and we talked about building a championship culture," Jones said Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
Jones said a championship mind set must be built, and the first positive sign was that the team quickly lost 260 pounds of fat and replaced it with 230 pounds of muscle mass.
Spring practice, Jones said, revealed that there is also mental work to be done.
"The biggest thing I thought that we need to improve on was our overall toughness," Jones said. "I thought that we left spring football a much better football team."
Offensive linemen Ja'Wuan James and Tiny Richardson, both 6-foot-6 and weighing in at more than 300 pounds, will anchor an offense that the new head coach says will be flexible, but with a run-first philosophy.
"The mark of good football coaches is they mold their personnel to what they want to do," Jones said. "We're very multiple on offense."
Defensive lineman Daniel McCullers and linebacker AJ Johnson are two key returnees who will be tasked with leading a defense with a lot of new faces. Jones said he expects to play a lot of freshmen this season.
Jones also addressed past disciplinary problems at UT, saying the school needs to recruit not only better players but to find prospects with high character who "understand it is a responsibility that comes with playing football at Tennessee."
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Deal ends 08.31.13