Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Vols' Jones goes back into Ohio for pledge
By Jared Shanker
Butch Jones was set up.
Ethan Wolf (Minster, Ohio/Minster) and his family went to Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday to make sure no stone was unturned, no questioned unanswered. They wanted to hear Jones’ vision for Tennessee one last time.
Ethan Wolf committed to Tennessee by presenting Vols coach Butch Jones a brick.
So Wolf, his father, uncle and former high school coach got the new Volunteers coach to talk about rebuilding a program that is almost a decade removed from its days as a consistent SEC and national championship contender. The mantra around Neyland this spring is “brick by brick,” which is Jones’ motto for creating his regime’s foundation one piece at a time.
Which led to the final question of the day, one James Wolf, Ethan’s dad, needed answered.
“Coach Jones,” James Wolf began, “Are you accepting bricks?”
Jones was puzzled.
He now looked over at Wolf, who was fussing around in a camera bag while Wolf’s dad kept Jones occupied. The 6-foot-6, 232-pound tight end on the ESPN Watch List was now holding up his own brick, which Tennessee’s trademark checkerboard painted on it with the word “commitment” in the middle.
“How about this brick?” Wolf said to Jones.
The first-year Tennessee coach was blown away. Without hesitation he accepted Wolf’s brick, making Wolf the eighth commitment of the Volunteers’ 2014 class.
Wolf decided a few days earlier to commit to Tennessee, but he wanted to take one last look before pulling the trigger. He had 20 offers from some of the country’s top programs and went on about a dozen visits, so he wanted to be sure in his decision.
Nate Moore, the former coach at Minster who is transitioning to coach at Cincinnati LaSalle, was with Wolf on the visit. He said any last-minute fears were assuaged when he saw the type of atmosphere -- not just the type of program -- Jones is building.
“I think the great thing about Coach Jones and his staff is that for him it’s about creating a family-type of atmosphere and creating an environment where players can be held accountable,” Moore said. “It’s something you can feel down there in the way the coaches preach to the players and the recruits. That’s the biggest part of their success in recruiting.”
Having previously having visited Tennessee in March, Wolf this time was able to watch a team weightlifting session before sitting on a tight ends meeting in the morning. It was a chance for Wolf to see the players in their new element under Jones. He then went on a tour of the academic building for students-athletes before heading off to the stadium to see the locker room and watch a few highlights to get the adrenaline going.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian then took Wolf into a room to breakdown the Vols’ plan for the tight end. Moore said the Volunteers will make good use of Wolf’s wide-ranging skill set.
“He can do everything at the right end position,” Moore said. “He’s not pigeonholed into any certain role or category. He can put his hand in the dirt and inline block. You can release him on play-action and split him out [at receiver].”
The visit ended with a sit-down meeting in Jones’ office and with a brick to be added to the foundation.
“Coach Jones said it was one of the coolest ways anyone has ever committed,” Moore said.