Recruiting Never Stops, Butch Jones

Ryan Callahan, 247 Sports (

On a typical midweek day during college football season, Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his staff spend the majority of their time game-planning, breaking down film, meeting with players, holding their own staff meetings and conducting practices.

“I bet you we put a good four to five hours every day into recruiting,” said Jones, who’s now in his eighth year as a head coach. “Every staff meeting, we talk about our current team, obviously, but there’s always recruiting there. The phones are constantly ringing. Constantly tweeting, writing notes.

“Get done with your meetings at night. You have a full day. You’ve been in the office since 6:30 in the morning, and it’s 8:30, 9 o’clock at night, and then you’re at the office making phone calls.”

“You’re constantly sending kids messages on Twitter. You’re constantly getting in touch with high-school coaches, getting on the phone with them at night — things along those lines,” said Mark Elder, Tennessee’s tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones runs onto the field during the Orange and White spring game on April 12 at Neyland Stadium. (Photo: Randy Sartin, USA TODAY Sports)

“I mean, recruiting’s a 24/7 deal. It never really ends, and even if the numbers are starting to get smaller and smaller for this class, you’re working on next year’s class. You’re working on the following year’s class — which is crazy, but it’s true. That’s just how it is these days in recruiting.

“Recruiting, there’s really no high points and low points, it seems like anymore. It’s a constant, steady stream of you’re working hard at it.”

After wrapping up in-season practices on weekday afternoons, Tennessee’s coaches typically review practice film and meet until approximately 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. But that’s hardly the end of their day.

“You’re sitting here and recruiting, because we don’t go home and make calls,” Azzanni said. “We stay here because everyone’s talking to everybody, getting kids on phones with Coach Jones and position coaches. We like to stay here and make the calls, even though we could go home with cell phones.”

Having the coaches together in the office allows them to pass their phones to one another and maximize the benefits of a prospect’s call. Rather than only talking with his primary recruiter, a high-priority target might hear from Jones, his area recruiter, his projected position coach and perhaps even a coordinator during a single phone conversation.

We’ve made a point to try and build relationships — position coach and recruiting area coach — so we have to do that,” Azzanni said.

“We have to be relentless at it right now. We can’t just kind of half-do it. We’ve got to just put the throttle down and recruit as hard as we can to get this thing back where we want it. We all know that. We know what we signed up for, so that’s what it is.”

“The other night we had a (Class of 2016) receiver call, and I was reading a story to my daughter,” Azzanni said. “We got home a little bit earlier — like, 9 o’clock or whatever. I’m reading a story to my daughter, and I hear my phone. I left it in the other room, and I hear it ring. This is how you know that your family is all-in: My wife sees who it is, answers the phone and says, ‘Oh, he was waiting for your call. He’s putting the girls to bed. Can you call back in five minutes? I mean, he’s so excited to talk to you.’

“She hangs up and I yell in the other room. I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! Recruit, recruit!’ And she’s laughing. She’s like, ‘I don’t want to move either.’

“That’s how it is, man. We know the deal.”

Defensive coordinator John Jancek said he sometimes takes a similar approach when recruits call him while he’s around his family.

“I make my wife talk to them,” he said. “I mean, once the kid comes on a visit and meets my wife, I just try and mix it up, make them feel like it’s part of a family and let them know that there’s people here who care about them.”

You develop a close relationship with these guys,” Bajakian said. “Right before I go to bed, I’m checking scores — particularly scores of the quarterbacks and guys that we’re recruiting to see how they’re doing, trying to find information all over Twitter. All the committed quarterbacks call me after the game or, at the very least, shoot me a text message. Obviously, I can’t respond to the text, but, ‘Hey, Coach. We won 38-25. We came back in the fourth quarter.’

“We talk recruiting every day,” Jancek said. “It’s the lifeline of our program. Butch knows that. Our staff knows that. We expect to attract the best players in the country here to the University of Tennessee. We’ve got a great product.”

Elder said it’s difficult to quantify how much time he and the rest of the Vols’ coaches spend talking on the phone and communicating via social media with prospects, their coaches and their families. But it’s a necessary and important part of their ongoing efforts to get Tennessee’s program back on track.

“I don’t know if it’s three or four hours per day that you’re talking to kids, but there’s a lot of — you’re just messaging, so I don’t know,” Elder said. “It’s hard to count how much time that is, exactly, but you’ve got your phone in your hand constantly, and messages are coming in and you’re sending them out. And they’re coming in and you’re sending them out.

“It’s hard to put an exact amount of time on that specifically, but it’s a lot of time. You’re spending a lot of time in recruiting. That’s the lifeblood of the program.”

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