Josh Ward from WNML in Knoxville joined ESPN 102.5 The Game’s Braden and Fitz Tuesday morning to discuss the status of the Volunteer football program.
Tennessee is a 36 point underdog this weekend against the no. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Ward doesn’t believe the Vols stand a chance against the Tide, especially with the game in Tuscaloosa.
“I think if Tennessee plays their best game they still lose by a couple touchdowns against Alabama,” Ward said, “Tennessee can’t score and Alabama doesn’t let its opponents score. That makes pretty bad timing for Tennessee”
Fans have called for the firing of Butch Jones since their struggles began this season in Knoxville. If the game goes like Ward and many others predict, Jones’ seat could be blazing hot.
The timing of Jones’ departure appears to be the only decision Tennessee has left to make. Is the best time to fire Jones after the Alabama game, or do you give him the opportunity to bounce back and beat Kentucky?
“I think there’s an expectation [the firing] could happen this Sunday and I guess there’s a possibility but I don’t think that’s the case,” Ward believes, “I think a loss to Kentucky is more likely what does it for Butch Jones.”
A win against Kentucky appears to be the only thing that would keep Jones’ job afloat, that game will be a “must win.”
Timing the firing is difficult because of the newly implemented early signing period for recruits. Firing Jones too late would affect Tennessee’s ability to recover and bring in a quality recruiting class, but firing him too soon would result in too much coaching uncertainty for recruits to commit and sign to the Vols in the early signing period.
Tennessee’s next coach, if Jones were to be fired, would have a quick turnaround to assemble a 2018 recruiting class. Coaching uncertainty would allow opposing coaches to swoop in and grab recruits from Tennessee.
“I don’t think there is a good time [to fire a coach] but from a recruiting standpoint, the longer you can wait and as much as you can close that gap between firing a coach and hiring the next one is the best you can do for this recruiting cycle,” Ward said.
Butch Jones’ future in Knoxville and the Volunteer’s program future hinges on their game against Kentucky in a couple weeks. If the Vols can pull out a win they can hold off firing Jones and remain fairly stable, but if they lose a new chapter could quickly begin for the Vols.
To hear the full interview with Josh Ward click on the SoundCloud link below.