National Signing Day wrapped up Wednesday, and the Tennessee Volunteers finished with the 17th class in the nation, per 247Sports’ Composite. The class featured a total of five blue-chip recruits, which was the fourth-lowest out of the entire SEC East.
On Thursday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones spoke at the Vols’ annual recruiting celebration, and addressed the number of four- and five-star star signees in this year’s class, the lowest since the 2013 class during Jones’ first season in Knoxville. Let’s just say he had yet another “Champions of Life” moment, by explaining that when looking at recruits, he wants the ones with “four and five-star hearts.” And no, this is not a joke.
“We’ve spoken about the competitive nature, and I think that’s really, really big in today’s world,” Jones said, via 247Sports. “Everyone gets into the whole two-star, three-star, four-star, five-star thing. The only five-star that we even concern ourselves with is a five-star heart.
“We want five-star hearts and five-star competitors.”
This might be true, but you see, Jones has openly expressed his excitement over landing five-star recruits in the past. Specifically, he had this tweet featuring fireworks when five-star defensive tackle Kahlil Mckenzie committed to Tennessee in July 2014 ...
Jones made headlines last November by saying that although his Tennessee team did not win a championship in 2016, his players were still “champions of life.”
Tennessee fans watching Butch's press conference pic.twitter.com/y78FG4wlJU— O&W Report (@OandWReport) November 21, 2016
The quote quickly made the rounds on Twitter, unsurprisingly.
Jones later tried to backtrack on this before Tennessee’s bowl game against Nebraska by saying that at least “seven other” programs have that same motto as to why the Champions of Life message didn’t resonate.
Butch Jones on champions for life "I want to say 7 college football programs have that motto so when I said it it didn't resonate very well"— Rhiannon Potkey (@TennesseeBeat) December 26, 2016
Let’s remember though, that N.C. State beat Vanderbilt, the team that beat Tennessee at the end of the season last year, in the Independence Bowl, so by default, that makes the Wolfpack Champions of Life for the 2016 season.
We’ve still got about seven offseason months to go, which is plenty of time for the Tennessee head coach to come up with some more stuff like this. We’ll just have to wait and see.