The Kentucky Football coaching rumor mill is heating up yet again and this time a name being spit out is no other than former Central Michigan and current Cincinnati head man, Butch Jones. While there currently seems to be some dispute about whether or not contact has been made between UK and himself, he has not denied that he wouldn’t be interested in becoming Kentucky’s next coach. Jones, who is in his sixth season as a head coach, has a career record of 48-27, including this season where his Bearcats are a very respectable 7-3. Of course there are other aspects in coaching like recruiting, marketing, and off-field behavior that are important to a potential hiring. One instance in particular where his positive off-field demeanor shines through would be the motivational mantras given to his Cincinnati team like “Hold the Rope” and “Represent the C.” Things like this are certainly important in running a successful football program, but on-field performance is what the fans truly care about. So in order to give further insight on this potential hire, I examined his most meaningful offensive and defensive statistics to see if he could shine as Wildcat head man.
As you can see, Jones’ teams have put up some very efficient rushing attacks over the years, which is totally understandable given the time spent coaching under former West Virginia head coach, Rich Rodriguez. Jones’ offense is another version of the “spread offense” which Wildcat fans have long been clamoring for. And rightfully so, because teams like Texas A&M and Mississippi State are running similar styles with great success against elite defenses. Because of this Kentucky would be foolish not to at least investigate a coach who runs a similar style. Since his Cincinnati teams run the ball so frequently one would expect a disproportional amount of fumbles to occur, but over Jones’ six year career this has rarely been the case. The only seasons where Jones has had a team ranked outside of the top-30 in fumbles lost were his inaugural seasons at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, where he was implementing his offense. Pair this with efficient rushing yard per carry numbers (which he consistently has) and we could have to potential for a high rate of offensive success at Kentucky.
When it comes to defense, Jones has been succeeding throughout the years despite what the above numbers say. While they would suggest that he is merely an average defensive coach, that isn’t the case. In his time as the Bearcat head coach, Jones has lead his team from the 68th best scoring defense (allowing 28 Points per game) in his first season, to the 20th ranked scoring defense in 2011 (allowing 20.3), to the 15th best in scoring defense this season (allowing only 17.9 points per game). This improvement isn’t an isolated case either. His three seasons in Mount Pleasant, Michigan were very similar to his defensive performance in Cincinnati. Jones’ first team allowed 36.9 Points per game (110th), his next team allowed 30.2 (90th), and then his third and final team broke through and only allowed 18.9 Points a contest (17th nationally). This is something Kentucky desperately needs, a man who can improve the porous defense that allows over 30 per game. It’s rare that you can win at a high level in the SEC without a defense, much less do it consistently year-to-year, so a defense that allows progressively fewer points as team grows over time is a huge plus for the case of Butch Jones.
As previously stated Butch Jones’ record is a very impressive 48-27 through six seasons. Now, one can debate on the context of those wins, but not many coaches have immediate success like Jones has experienced. Many coaches in many sports fail frequently before they figure out how to succeed, but Jones has never experienced a long term period of failure or mediocrity. He coaches teams that run an entertaining and effective offensive scheme in addition to teams who improve yearly on defense. He may not be the “home-run” hire that some fans are looking for, but Kentucky would be hard pressed to find many coaches better than him at this point in their careers.