Tennessee works toward bowl date in Tampa

Tennessee hit the practice field Monday as the Vols continue preparation for the Outback Bowl.

Butch Jones received a nice Christmas bonus in the form of a $500,000 raise, the university announced Monday. The third-year Tennessee head coach's salary is now $4.1 million annually with a buyout of $4 million in 2016. 

"Obviously I'm very thankful," Jones said. "We've had a supportive administration led by Dave Hart and Chancellor (Jimmy) Cheek, and we all win with this. I think it's an illustration of the support they have given us ever since we came here. It's gratifiying in terms of they see what we're building. They see what goes on here, but it's really all about the players, it's about our coaching staff, it's about everyone in our organization. Really, it's a tribute to them and everyone associated to our football program." 

The pay bump makes Jones the seventh-highest coach in the SEC based on 2014's salaries.

"Butch Jones has done an outstanding job leading this football proram on and off the field," athletic director Dave Hart said in a release. "As I said recently, Butch has brought stability to our program. When we hired Butch (three) years ago, he laid out a vision of how he wanted to build this program. program back to where we all want it to be. We have made great strides, however, it remains an ongoing process." 

There was no extension added to Jones' current contract, which runs through the 2020 season. There was also no increase in his buyout, which sits at $4 million if he leaves before Feb. 28, 2018 and dips to $2 million if he departs before Feb. 29, 2020. If Jones leaves before his contract expires, he'll owe the school $1 million. 

After an 8-4 season in 2015, Tennessee's Outback Bowl bid gave Jones a $200,000 bonus. Since the Outback Bowl is in the "pool of six" SEC bowls now, a bid to the Tampa-based bowl will net a $100,000 raise moving forward.

"Most importantly," Hart said in the release, "we have the right leader to get us to our ultimate destination and we are rearding him accordingly." 

JRM's Journey 

Jalen Reeves-Maybin has more to think about than just the bowl game. The junior linebacker turned in an impressive season, notching 99 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, five sacks and four pass breakups for his best season as a Vol. Reeves-Maybin's productive year has vaulted his NFL draft stock and forced him to consider leaving Tennessee early to enter the NFL draft. 

"There's a lot to think about, but like I said, right now I'm a part of Tennessee football," Reeves-Maybin said. "I just want to come out and put on a great performance in the bowl game. After Jan. 1, I'll start thinking about that a lot more." 

The junior will have some company in his corner, as cornerback Cameron Sutton and hybrid linebacker/defensive lineman Curt Maggitt will all have to make that decision as well in the coming weeks. 

"When we’re having these conversations as a football program it shows you’re making great progress," Jones said. "Everything is about what’s best for our players. We’re very fortunate here to have three individuals that have worked in the personnel departments of the National Football League — and not just for one or two years but a number of years, double-digit years — so we have that resource for them. We’ll provide every resource possible so they can make the best decision for them and moving forward." 

Reeves-Maybin said he doesn't have a set round that will determine if he stays or leaves and is more focused on the bowl game than anything that happens after. 

"I just got to talk to my dad, talk to my mom about it, things like that," he said. "I don't really have a true, like, third round and I'm coming out, or anything like that. I'm sure I'll think about it a lot more now that I have more free time, but I don't have anything (in mind)." 

Injury Update 

Elliot Berry received arhtroscopic knee surgery and will be held out of the bowl game. Wide receiver Josh Smith was held out of practice, but fellow receivers Marquez North, Jason Croom and Vincent Perry all practiced Monday. Nickelback Rashaan Gaulden ran drills with the defense publicly for the first time since he broke his foot in fall camp.

"We held Josh Smith out just for some muscular stuff in his back. He should be at practice tomorrow," Jones said. "Having Rashaan Gaulden out there, him being back and doing drills is great to see, really proud of his recovery. Vincent Perry is out there running routes (and) you can see the progress he’s made. Jason Croom is out there running routes, so we are getting some of these individuals back, which is great to see, and they’ve worked hard."

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