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Butch Jones: ‘The window is not closing’ – and for his sake, it better not be

Tennessee coach Butch Jones
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — I spent two days with the Tennessee football program last week and while fans don’t want to hear it, this is a place that is in full transition mode.

* Eighty-nine representatives from all 32 NFL franchises turned out for Pro Day on March 31. In Butch Jones’ previous three seasons, Pro Day did not have a lot of punch for the Vols. But on this day, potential first-round picks such as defensive end Derek Barnett and running back Alvin Kamara were on display. It is the kind of day Jones has been working toward — but it also was a reminder of how much talent is walking out the door this year.

* It was the last Pro Day for Dave Hart as Tennessee athletic director, a position he has held since 2011. Hart made some difficult decisions that were not universally popular, but he leaves with no regrets. “This has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” Hart said when we visited in what soon would be his former office.

* John Currie, a former UT assistant AD who had run the Kansas State program the past eight years, took over April 1. We had an early breakfast and talked about the challenges ahead of him. There are many but none more important than getting football on the right track, which is the No. 1 job of any AD in the SEC.

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* At Tennessee’s practices, there are a lot of new faces, and not just among the players. There are six new assistants. Larry Scott was promoted from within to become offensive coordinator. Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke is the new defensive line coach, a position that is critical if Tennessee is going to compete for the SEC East championship. Charlton Warren, who spent 10 years of active military service before becoming a full-time coach, now handles the secondary. Mike Canales was brought in to handle the quarterbacks. Kevin Beard is the new receivers coach. And Walt Wells now oversees the offensive line.

The pace, as is usually the case when there are a lot of new coaches, is intense and that’s the way Jones likes it.

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