KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Butch Jones has heard the criticism over his use of slogans and catchphrases, from calling last year's seniors "champions of life" to describing his pursuit of recruits possessing "five-star hearts."
But he doesn't plan to change his approach and wonders why his program gets singled out in this regard.
"Every coach has those," Jones said Sunday at Tennessee's media day. "For some reason at Tennessee, I think it's all kind of blown out of proportion because that's the one topic to talk about. ... Every football program has those. It's a way to get the attention of your program. We haven't been any different. I think it's been grossly over-talked about."
Tennessee coach Butch Jones on criticism of his use of slogans and catchphrases. pic.twitter.com/9od7NhZXWP
— Steve Megargee (@stevemegargee) August 13, 2017
Indeed, the San Francisco 49ers have put out videos this summer titled "Brick by Brick," the same slogan Jones used before his first season at Tennessee, in 2013. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer recently talked about how great organizations "own it," the same words Tennessee used as its team motto last year.
But the timing of some of Jones' comments has led to scrutiny.
Two days after Tennessee was eliminated from contention for the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division championship last year, Jones praised his seniors and said "they've won the biggest championship — and that's the championship of life." Jones' comment immediately turned into an internet meme — and then got even more scrutiny after Tennessee was stunned by Vanderbilt later that week.
Jones talked about wanting prospects with "five-star hearts" immediately after signing a 2017 class that wasn't ranked as high as his previous three recruiting classes.
Jones isn't shying away from slogans this year. Tennessee's team motto for 2017 is DAT, which stands for Details, Accountability, Toughness.
"If you do your research around the country, every football program has to have something they're going to hang their hat on, whether it's in times where you need perseverance, whether it's times you need to focus your football team," Jones said. "It really just exemplifies what that current football team needs. Nothing has really changed with what we're doing."
Tennessee's players say they don't mind all the slogans and catchphrases.
"With our generation, that's how we remember things," senior guard Jashon Robertson said. "It's a certain way for us to remember a lot of core values in our program. The teams that listen to them are the ones that are usually pretty successful. They may seem a bit cheesy at times or a bit repetitive, but at the same time, there's something we get out of those slogans. Details, Accountability, Toughness. Those are huge aspects of a team that you need to have to be good."
That slogan is appropriate for a team that has competition at just about every position, from quarterback to kicker.
The quarterback competition has garnered the most attention during preseason camp as junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano compete for the right to replace Pittsburgh Steelers' fourth-round draft pick Joshua Dobbs, who started 35 games over the last four years. Tennessee's only other scholarship quarterback is true freshman Will McBride.
Guarantano missed Friday's practice because of a death in the family but quickly returned to campus and had "probably the best practice he's had" on Saturday night, according to Jones. The coaching staff isn't indicating when a starter might be named as Tennessee prepares for its Sept. 4 opener with Georgia Tech.
"I don't ever believe in setting timetables," Jones said. "When it manifests and when it happens, it happens. I see both individuals competing exceptionally, exceptionally hard."
Jones also indicated Sunday that incumbent kicker Aaron Medley is being pushed by freshman Brent Cimaglia. Medley has made 71.2 percent of his career field-goal attempts but is 9 of 20 from at least 40 yards out. His longest career field goal is only 47 yards.
"Aaron has really, really picked it up in camp," Jones said. "I do think that's a byproduct of he's in a competitive battle. It's one of those positions that's still up in the air."
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