November 16, 2008

Vols' Jones sounds off on QB play, search

Gerald Jones never has been afraid to say what's on his mind, and it's a driving reason the University of Tennessee sophomore wideout is a respected presence in the locker room.

Jones spoke candidly to reporters Sunday night about the Volunteers' struggles at quarterback, their coaching search and whether or not he'd like to hear about his new coach from media reports or athletics director Mike Hamilton.

Like everyone else following Tennessee's search to replace Phillip Fulmer, the 6-foot, 185-pounder from Oklahoma City has heard the speculation. He's even close friends with a player who potentially could be affected by UT's decision -- Texas Tech wideout Tramain Swindall, a former teammate at Millwood High School.

"I talked to (Swindall) an hour (Saturday), and we were just reminiscing because I was bored and didn't have nothing to do since we didn't have a game," Jones said. "We were reminiscing about high school and everything and how this year's been going for him. He was talking about the offense and how well they're doing. And he made a comment, he said, 'So who's your all's head coach going to be?' I said I couldn't tell you, I don't have the slightest idea.

"He kind of sounded depressed and said, 'I heard Coach Leach is interviewing for the job.' I didn't know how to respond to it. I was like yeah, I heard about it. I said that would be bittersweet. He said, 'What do you mean?' I said I'll be happy as hell but it sucks for you. So we laughed about that."

Jones said that there is plenty of speculation in the Vols' locker room but that he tries to maintain a focus on this week's game at Vanderbilt (12:30 p.m. ET, RayCom).

"Well, we know who's like interviewing for the job and who's trying, but we don't have the slightest idea of who it could be or who we favor. Right now I don't care who it is, I just hope he comes in and changes things around for us," said Jones, who last week declined to answer whether or not he might leave UT after this season. "Yeah, they (teammates) keep up with it. I'm not much of a TV guy. Honestly, I didn't really watch sports till I started playing them. I didn't watch college (football) till I started playing college. They talk and they talk about (Jon) Gruden and possibly (Lane) Kiffin and Mike Leach. A lot of our receivers have talked about Mike Leach, and I can guess why. That don't really mean that much to me right now. I'm worried about getting a victory against Vanderbilt.

"Yeah, a lot of people are asking me, 'Who are you going to get and who do you want?' And a lot of people are asking me who can fit this team. I said I don't know. I don't really know too much about it. The only person's offense I know anything about is Mike Leach because my best friend plays for Texas Tech. That would be great for the receivers, that's all I know."

Angered by the way he learned of Fulmer's exit from the program, Jones said he'd be just fine with again learning of the program's new leader from media reports.

"Probably the media. I really don't have too many things to say to Mike Hamilton right now," said Jones when asked if he'd prefer to hear the news from Tennessee's athletics director. "(Hamilton) took a lot of stuff away from me, something that was very valuable, and that's my head coach. Coach Fulmer is one of the main reasons why I came here, and for him doing that, I could care less."

Jones also said he believes Hamilton faces immense pressure with this hire.

"I hope so. I sure hope so, because if not (the right hire) he's going to have a whole bunch of people mad at him," Jones said. "Well, (Hamilton) already has a bunch of people mad at him. So, he better make that up. He better make that up."

Jones hasn't spoken with Hamilton since the move to get rid of Fulmer and doesn't expect to do so during the search process.

"I don't know anything. He ain't said anything," said Jones. "I doubt if he will, until he finds out who he wants to be the head coach."

On the field, Jones thinks it's time redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Coleman gets his opportunity to guide the Vols' anemic offense.

"Most definitely (give Coleman a chance). I think he deserves a chance," he said. "He did really good in the J.V. game; I think he threw for 325 yards if I'm not mistaken. I mean, why not? Give him a chance and see if he can lead this team from here on out. But, I'm not the coach so it's not my call."

Fulmer, who named Crompton the starter against Vanderbilt earlier Sunday evening, has maintained that Coleman could get a look. The outcry for the highly-regarded Chattanooga product grew on the heels of his impressive performance last Thursday against Hargrave Military Academy in the Vols' 37-21 junior varsity win. Coleman completed 22 of 31 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

"We just haven't had the production from our QB position," Fulmer said. "Nick had done such good job for a good period of time taking care of the football although there were some plays along the way (that could have been turnovers). He's had really a bad couple of ballgames. Right now, Jon will be the starting quarterback and we will continue to look at B.J. along the way and then go from there."

Jones said there's a noticeable difference between Crompton and Stephens and that he's never experienced anything like this quarterback carousel before in his career.

"I think Nick throws the ball a lot earlier than Jonathan coming out of the breaks, so that's different," Jones said. "It's not really too much different. I don't want to say what's good or what's bad. Just the difference is Crompton is a lot slower with his reads than Nick."

Jones also indicated his quarterback package -- the "G-Gun" -- could be revived down the stretch or perhaps imitated by teammate Eric Berry.

"Hopefully so," Jones said of more opportunities at quarterback in the Vols' final two games. "(The team has) been doing a lot with Eric at quarterback so if I can't stay healthy then he'll be doing it, and that's probably the reason we haven't seen it. Because I've been injured."

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