- Dave Hooker, Reporter, RecruitingNation
Josh Malone and his family noticed the difference. That's good news for Tennessee.
The receiver from Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp raved about the new feel in Knoxville after he visiting Tennessee for the Volunteers' junior day last weekend. Another important family member felt the same way.
"Just the energy, the coaches, how they move around all excited. It's a different Tennessee," the 6-foot-3, 190-pound ESPN Watch List receiver said. "I feel the difference is the energy level. There's a lot more energy in the building with this coaching staff than the last coaching staff."
This coaching staff is led by Butch Jones, the first-year coach who was hired in December to replace Derek Dooley, who was fired after three losing seasons. Malone's mother, Rebecca Malone, was also duly impressed with the new Vols, particularly with receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who she refers to by his common nickname.
"The staff made a good first impression on me," she said. "They are very interested in Josh and they seem to have a plan on making UT successful again. Time will tell if their actions fit their words. Coach Z stood out to me because he was very clear on what his expectations are for Josh."
Yet the rebuilding effort is undoubtedly led by Jones. Several prospects have said they feel closer to Jones than they did to Dooley. Malone concurred.
"Coach Jones is really more involved in getting out and getting to know the prospects," he said. "That's a big thing in recruiting."
Somewhat surprisingly, Tennessee didn't pick up a commitment from their weekend full of visitors. Perhaps wins in the fall are what prospects are waiting for.
Malone said success in the 2013 season wouldn't necessarily affect him. However, he said it could lift the state after seeing the Vols headed up by four different head coaches since 2008.
"It would be nice because they've got the state's name on them. It's Tennessee. They can make the state of Tennessee look good. I'd say it's a pride thing," said Malone, who added a home-like atmosphere will be the most significant factor in his decision.
Malone said he's open to all of the approximately 25 schools that have offered him a scholarship. He said he plans to visit Louisville for its junior day on Saturday.
"It's a good team with a really good coaching staff," the 6-foot-3, 190-pound prospect said. "Their offense likes to air it out. I'm very interested to see what they've got up there."
Good for Tennessee that the Malone family knows -- and likes -- what is in Knoxville.