The Arkansas State Red Wolves have a new pack leader.
Former Tennessee Vols football head coach Butch Jones has been announced as the team’s new head coach.
Butch Jones becomes head coach once again
Jones takes the place of former A-State head coach Blake Anderson, becoming the 31st head coach in the program’s 109-year history.
Anderson guided the team to six consecutive bowl games during his seven seasons. This year, Anderson recorded a dismal 4-7 finish and subsequently accepted a head coaching position at Utah State.
This led to an opening for the Red Wolves, which Jones eagerly filled.
Early on in his career, Jones logged a 23-14 record at Cincinnati, then 27-13 while at Central Michigan, leading the two teams to four conference championship appearances within six years.
During his five years at the University of Tennessee (2013-17), Jones held a 34-27 record.
Jones is the only coach in the last 12 years of Tennessee Vols history to guide the team to two back-to-back nine-win seasons. Anderson, on the other hand, only touts one nine-win season in his career.
Tennessee lets Jones go
The Vols fired Jones during his fifth year with the team. He exited at the conclusion of the 2017 season when Missouri defeated Tennessee 50-17.
Jones then took a position as Alabama head coach Nick Saban‘s special offensive assistant in March 2018.
After dismissing Jones, Tennessee still owed him a buyout of $8.26 million – or $2.5 million per year, paid out in monthly installments.
Jones was required to mitigate the school’s financial responsibility by finding comparable employment.
During his three seasons at Alabama, Jones made only $35,000 a year, producing a minimal dent in his damage reduction efforts.
Jones’ buyout payments officially end on Feb. 28, 2021. By taking the position at Arkansas State, Jones mitigates the final months of his Tennessee severance package.
Putting the Jones in Jonesboro
As part of his first duties as A-State head coach, Jones secured 10 recruits for the 2021 season.
He has also already begun assembling his coaching staff, which includes former Tennessee graduate assistant Jon Shalala.
Shalala initially served under Jones from 2016-17 as a defensive graduate assistant.
He extended his position in 2018 under new Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt and has worked as Mississippi State’s defensive quality control coordinator for the past two years.
Potential Arkansas State line movement
Arkansas State exits the 2020 season ranked third in the Sun Belt West Division – behind Louisiana and South Alabama.
Current odds for the Red Wolves to win the 2021 Championship are +100,000 at DraftKings.
However, if Jones’ past performances are any indication, another championship visit could be in the Red Wolves’ future.
Johnny Avello, Director of Race and Sportsbook Operations at DraftKings, said:
“Butch Jones is a formidable selection for Arkansas State. He’s won at a 60% clip for his career and been successful at three different schools. 2020 hasn’t been the greatest of years for Arkansas State but expect good results in Jonesboro moving forward.”
According to DraftKings, Arkansas State is ranked second in the Sun Belt West.
Keven Hennessy, Director of Publicity at FanDuel, is cautiously optimistic about the team’s future:
“We don’t expect a new hire to make any wild improvements until 2022. We have Ark State finishing the season ranked 7th in Sun Belt in terms of ratings. Their team rating dropped 4.5pts from the beginning of season. I expect one of their high-quality Sun Belt QB’s to transfer in offseason and head into 2021 rated similarly as now.”
Whether A-State will need a year to adjust to their new coach remains in question.
Bettors with faith in Jones will find value in team futures lines early on in the 2021 season.