Jones, Vols to visit Gatlinburg
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and the Vols will make a road trip on Wednesday following practice. The Vols will head to Gatlinburg for their annual bowl dinner and outing. This year the trip takes on a different meaning.
Wednesday before dinner, the Vols will spend the afternoon at the Rocky Top Sports Complex. For the last two weeks, the complex has served as a shelter for those who lost homes in the wildfires that raged through Gatlinburg and the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Fires that killed 14 people, injured 191 and destroyed or damaged over 2,000 structures.
“Tomorrow is going to be a very, very special day,” Jones said. “We are going to Rocky Top Sports Complex in Gatlinburg and sign autographs for elementary age kids. That's the least that we can do. Once that's done we will go into Gatlinburg and we will have our annual team dinner, and then we will spend an hour or so out in the streets and let our kids enjoy that.
“That community means so much to us. Jim Ogle is such a great friend of the program and personally to me, so we are looking forward to spending some time with everyone in Gatlinburg.”
For several players, Wednesday will be a return trip to Gatlinburg as a number of Tennessee student athletes have already volunteered to aid victims. For Jones, it's the for his team and program to support those who support them.
“It's very special. Gatlinburg and the entire state of Tennessee,” Jones said. “The more that we can get our players out in this great state and get them around our great fanbase and the people. To be able to give back to the community is important that's where the over 5000 hours of community service come in. It's giving back to everyone who supports us. If we can brighten the day, put a smile on a youngsters face that's what life is all about.”
Defending the program
On Tuesday, Jones, who wasn't quoted in a recent article where the culture of his program was scrutinized, was asked about his program's health and the four year head coach wasted no time defending what he is in charge of daily.
“It is set up for the future. We always talk about consistency and sustained success and that's what we are building this football program on,” Jones told the media. “All you have to do is look in the weight room and look at the number of players (putting in extra work). You guys see it in practice. I understand there was an article that came out with many unnamed sources. I don't stand for anyone attacking our football program because it's untrue. It's very, very unfortunate.
"I take that personal. I know our players take is personal and everyone in our football family takes it personal. There' are so many positive things going on here with our players. You look at recruiting right now. That's a by product of our players being our best ambassadors. You look at how far we have come in the program. Have we had some setbacks this year? Absolutely. But I think this football team has overcome a lot of obstacles and adversity. That's when you really find out about people and that's in adverse times and adverse situations. How do they respond? It's very, very unfortunate but I'm never going to let anyone attack our football program that doesn't know our football program.”
Wells could have other opportunities
Offensive quality control staff member Walt Wells is interviewing for the vacant offensive line job at South Carolina. Wells is also in play at Oregon with his former boss Willie Taggert. A long time assistant, Wells has been at Western Kentucky, South Florida (Offensive Coordinator), Eastern Kentucky and other spots along the way. Wells has been critical in working the phones and social media as a part of this staff. He has good relationships with several players committed to Tennessee.
The Tennessee players got to enter a gift suite yesterday and pick out their bowl gifts. The Music City Bowl prides itself in making sure the players have options and that was the case for each team. Throw in the last two bowl games in the Sunshine state and it was the Volunteer state based bowl coming through with glowing recommendations.
"Personally I think these are the best bowl gifts we have ever got," Vereen said. "That's just me. I got a guitar and a 32 inch TV."