Overview: Jones began his collegiate coaching career with various stops as a graduate assistant and as an assistant at small colleges. He got his first FBS full-time assistant job at Central Michigan, coaching tight ends in 1998.
He worked his way up to offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach when Brian Kelly, now the head coach at Notre Dame, departed to take over Cincinnati in 2006.
Jones went 27-13 as the head coach at Central Michigan, including an impressive 20-3 mark in the MAC. He then went on to replace Kelly again in 2010, this time at Cincinnati. After a tough 4-8 season in his first year, Jones turned the Bearcats around quickly, posting a 10-3 record in 2011 capped off with a win over Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl.
Cincinnati is 9-3 (5-2 Big East) this season and will play Duke in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27. Jones was chosen the Big East Coach of the Year by CBSSports.com in 2012 and was honored with the same title by the Big East coaches in 2011.
Unfortunately for Jones, many Tennessee fans know him for being one of the few major-conference coaches former UT coach Derek Dooley defeated. Tennessee beat Jones and the Bearcats 45-23 in 2011.
Jones has been linked as a potential candidate for multiple jobs this offseason including Kentucky, Colorado and Purdue. He emerged as a potential top candidate for Tennessee on Thursday night.
Recruiting: He’s been among the best recruiters in the Big East, averaging a class ranked in the low 50s nationally (per Rivals.com rankings). His current class is ranked 53rd.
Chalk talk: Jones utilizes a balanced, up-tempo, spread offense. The Bearcats finished 44th nationally in total offense this year, averaging 200 yards per game on the ground and 231 yards per game through the air. Jones prides his offense on the vertical passing game mixed with a strong ground attack and an emphasis on getting the ball in the hands of the best playmakers.
Defensively, the Bearcats, who normally operate out of a 4-3 front, finished 41st nationally, giving up 347 yards on average per game.
Four of the current coaches on his staff followed him from Central Michigan. Two assistants – defensive coordinator John Jancek and tight ends coach Dave Johnson – have SEC coaching experience. Both were assistants at Georgia.
What they’ve said:
“I think I’ve proven that I want to be here. This is a very special place. We’re building something really special here. I ask our players to make a commitment and I need to make a commitment back,” – Jones said last year after signing an extended contract with Cincinnati
“He does a great job running the spread and he’s a sharp coach. He’s like a carbon copy of Brian Kelly,” – CBSSports.com Big East writer Matt Rybaltowski
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.