The Vols have gotten off to a slow start and haven’t lived up to their preseason hype. After squeaking out some early non-conference victories, the Vols have been hammered in the SEC. The most glaring loss was the 41-0 beat down at home at the hands of Georgia, Tennessee’s first shutout in 23 years and their worst home loss since 1905.
The Georgia loss crossed a threshold for Jones. He spent the week before the game criticizing the media’s coverage of the Volunteers, calling the negative coverage “overwhelming”.
But the problems facing the Vols have made themselves clear throughout the season. Issues on offense, including not having scored a touchdown in 15 quarters, have led to Tennessee second-to-last in the SEC in yards per game (298 yards) and 13th in the league in scoring offense (20.8 points per game).
Questions at quarterback only compound the problem, including junior quarterback Quinten Dormady announcing he was “contemplating his future” at Tennessee, leading to redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano getting his first career start in the South Carolina game. Guarantano has since been injured, leading to true freshman Will McBride having his redshirt burned.
This season started full of promise for Tennessee. The team was ranked No. 19 in the country before the season started and Tennessee was projected to challenge Georgia in the East division.
To be fair, the Vols have felt the sting of the injury bug. Tennessee’s top linebacker (Darrin Kirkland, Jr.), top tackler (Todd Kelly, Jr.), top receiver (Jauan Jennings), and one of the nation’s premiere kick returners (Evan Berry) have all missed significant time, if not the entire season. But there’s only so much that can’t be put on the coach.
Reports surfaced after the loss to South Carolina that Butch Jones’s days were numbered as coach.
Just got a text from connected source at Tennessee who said said that loss was "the nail in the coffin for Butch."— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) October 14, 2017
And minutes after the end of the game, Tennessee’s four-star running back commit Lyn-J Dixon announced he was opening his recruitment “to all schools”. It will be interesting to see how other recruits view Tennessee in the coming months if the current level of football continues.
Former UK commit Shocky Jacques-Louis, a three-star wide receiver from Florida, switched his commitment to Tennessee at the end of August, but he’s since decommitted.
Jones was under contract through the 2021 season. He is owed up to $8.48 million as part of the buyout of his contract; and paying the rest of his staff (who would likely be cleared out after the hiring of a new coach) would cost the university up to $14 million.