|Butch Jones continues to build the Tennessee program in his second year on the job.|
Manning, a Tennessee alum, told The Associated Press that Jones has the Vols "going in the right direction."
Jones led Tennessee to a 5-7 mark last season, his first with the Vols after a three-season stint at Cincinnati. When he was hired, he became Tennessee's fourth coach in six seasons; he replaced Derek Dooley, who lasted three years after replacing Lane Kiffin, who was in Knoxville for just one season after taking over for the deposed Phil Fulmer.
"I'm a big Butch Jones fan," Manning said.
Manning acknowledged all the coaching turnover and the work Jones has had to do in trying to get the program back on solid ground.
"I think Butch had a lot of work to do when he got here. He's put in that work," Manning said. "He's signing some of his players. Every coach wants to have their players. He's been patient. At the same time, he's been hard-working, as he was advertised to be. He's done that. I just see it continuing to get better. I really do."
Manning was in Knoxville to host a charity golf tournament and told the AP he planned to work out with Tennessee's team and speak to the players during his visit. The school tweeted out a picture Tuesday morning of Manning working with quarterbacks Justin Worley and Josh Dobbs.
Tennessee has had four consecutive losing seasons, the first time that has happened to the Vols since 1903-06. This season looks as if it will be difficult: Tennessee lost all five starting offensive linemen and all four staring defensive linemen, and it's especially hard to win in the SEC with inexperienced lines. The Vols also need a consistent quarterback, a new starting tailback, a go-to receiver to emerge and for the secondary to greatly improve its performance.
But while the season could be tough, it's important that Jones has Manning on his side, even if Manning, 38, points out that some of the players "weren't even born when I played football here at Tennessee."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.