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Since arriving here, I've heard many people reference Fulmer's laziness over the past few (I think I've heard up to 7) years of his tenure. I don't think it was limited to recruiting, and I'd be happy to hear specifics on any of it, but I'm particularly interested in the recruiting side.
Basically, anyone who was paying more attention than I was at the time is welcome to contribute their opinions, relevant facts, links to articles, etc.
I don't have any trouble believing the general idea, but I am beginning to realize that it's so well-accepted around here that I'm not likely to ever run across anyone explaining *how* it happened unless I ask. :)
Thanks in advance!
I'm not sure anyone has full details on the "how", but what became clear as time went on was that Fulmer got to the point where he'd take more players who were marginal (i.e. had grade and/or attitude issues, weren't necessarily good fits for the system, etc). If you compare his classes from 1993-2000 to the 2005-2008 classes, you'll notice that there was a big shift in the types of players that were brought into the program. Furthermore, Phil was at his best when he had Cutcliffe and Chavis on board, because they both know how to maximize the personnel they have available. By the time the 2008 season had come around, Fulmer was so used to letting his coordinators run their sides of the ball that he really didn't get involved to a great degree. IMO, Clawson's big failing at Tennesssee was trying to fit the players into his system instead of fitting the system to the players on hand. Fulmer's M.O. of letting the coordinators have autonomy backfired on him during that season because of the personnel issues. Personally, I don't think it was laziness that ended Fulmer's tenure at Tennessee, but a sense of complacency and a loss of that sense of urgency that served him so well in the late 90s/early 2000s.
the recruiting was so bad, Tennessee played in the SECCG in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007.
Hall FG, 1998
Making the 2007 SEC game doesn't change the fact that the 2005-08 classes were not a good on the field as earlier classes.
Majors was the first to really start recruiting outside of Tennessee's region. He used his contacts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio to get some really good players to come to Knoxville. When Fulmer took over, he really expanded the recruiting area and also proved to be an effective closer. He was taking top level talent out of Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia. However, he wasn't exactly recruiting against the best coaches. What really happened to Fulmer was Spurrier/Zook/Meyer, Saban/Miles, Richt, Saban in Alabama and Spurrier in South Carolina. Suddenly it got a lot harder to pull the talent out of those states. Fulmer was still getting some top level talent but the quality below the top tier was really falling off and that's when the results began to show that. Many claim that Fulmer in his later years was on cruise control, but I really think the level of competition just got better.
This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by RunThruThe T 19 months ago
I see someone's targeting me with downvotes again...
true. we never understood how outstanding a job those earlier classes were either. Why I have every game from that time frame recorded. We are likely to not see that quantity of talent roam Neyland in the future. For sure I want, I don't have that much time left
Neyland was the one that really started outside region. If one looks back, lot of players in signing classes from northeast area
I got you, toak.
Butch Jones. Who???
Don't forget Trooper, honestly he pulled most of the high profile kids in,when there began to be trouble in paradise recruiting went down. Kids loved Trooper coaches didn't.Nothing lasts forever but we'll get back there again I really believe.
agree, the rest of the league has advanced considerably, and UT started to fall behind.
Patrick Willis and Randall Cobb are just two of many in-state guys that Fulmer showed little interest in during his final years. Both starred at other schools and are studs in the NFL. This, in my opinion, is why the wheels started falling off of Phil. He simply quit winning the state of TN in recruiting. Gotta get the best in-state guys to stay competitive IMO.
Fulmer's classes from 2002 - 2008 according to Rivals (who I have trusted over the years more than others):
2002 - #2
2003 - #18
2004 - #20
2005 - #4
2006 - #23
2007 - #3
2008 - #35
Big dropoff in 2008 obviously but I'm guessing any of us would take 3 top 5 classes in 6 years (with all 6 in top 25) at this point. It did seem like the talent wasn't being developed the last few years as much as it was in the 90's/early2000's. I do wonder just how jaded we all were at that time though and how that effected our opinions/expectations in a changing SEC.
I believe fulmer start to try and get to many special players and went away from what brought him sucess in the earlier years because if you look at the offense and defense line which is what separtes the sec from the other conference for example kiffing was playing with two walk ons not saying they were bad and that was only next year after fulmer and dooley played mostly freshman that was only two years removed
Big miss on Cobb (and in hindsight on Willis) but to be fair no one thought Willis was that great (if I remember correctly Ole Miss was his only "big time" offer). Sanders knew enough to get on Cobb early and we just offered too late. I have scratched my head watching both many times and wondered what if though.
The classes we look back on fondly in the 90's were filled with recruiting studs. Especially the couple before 98 that culminated with a NC (Coleman, Lewis, Grant etc...). We had some in state guys that weren't highly recruited like Wilson and some of the offensive linemen but most of those classes would have easily been top 5 or top 10 in the country. Our superior talent is what made us so good. Like Pat Summit says "I'll take talent over hustle any day" ;)
Edit: FWIW arguably our best QB was also the highest ranked QB in his class (Manning). Shuler wasn't a recruiting slouch coming out of high school either. Martin, Clausen and Ainge were all 4 star guys from what I can remember.
This post was edited by TNChris 19 months ago
If he didn't think Willis was that good then that says a lot!!!!! I saw the guy play in high school and he was a BEAST! Unfortunately for him, he played at Bruceton, a 1A school. For some reason many big time college coaches won't even look at small school talent, which is crazy! Most of those kids can't help that they live in a small town or community and play lesser competition. It certainly doesn't make them less of an athlete. Cutcliffe (the true brains and reason for Fulmer's success) saw his potential and scooped him up for Ole Miss.
Fulmer missed several big in-state recruits during his last few years. A name to be added to that list is Will Jackson from Farragut. He is at GA Tech and was freshman All-American and has started the last three years, being named to the All-ACC team this past season. I find it funny that the day Greg Adkins(Fulmer's last OL coach) got the job at Syracuse after being fired at UT, he called will and basically begged him to come and told him that Fulmer has not wanted him.
Some believe Fulmer didnt capitalize on the National Title like he should have in the 1-3 years after that. Maybe that is the case a bit but we were still good. JMO it all came crashing down slowly after the 2004 SEC title game. Losing Cutcliffe both times damaged this programs focus and discipline. Losing him IMO the 2nd time is what got Fulmer fired.
The thing that is easy to see is that the 2007 class fell apart and the 2008 class had little in it and then the Fulmer/ Kiffins class of 2009 fell apart too. The thing that destroyed UTs program were these 3 classes and the attrition but also the lack of Oline and Dline and LBs in those 3 classes.
On top of the lack of big uglies as I mentioned above.....once Kiffins playmakers left and the 2009 and 2010 SRs the program actually fell again where Dooley had only a few upper classmen that were SEC worthy to start and the rest were true FR or true Sophs in 2011.....and then you have experience, maturity and strength issues.
Just think.........Dooley had only the 2011 class to fix all those issues unless you want to blame Dooley for not beating top 10 programs with recruits that he had to get in 2.5 weeks in Jan. 2010 or that were true FR/ 1st year SEC players from the 2012 class.
Sure he should have won 2-4 more games but 1 class to fix all the issues of 3+ years was never going to happen.
Another thing that killed this program is the turnover in assistant coaches from 2007-now......start counting the OCs and DCs and HCs and then switch over to the 30+ position coaches and you will see why recruiting has suffered and relationships and our players inability to getting "coached up" is from all the different schemes and language and styles year after year for 5+ years.
This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by SamVolsam 19 months ago
This -- Don't get me wrong. When we lost to Wyoming at home, I was calling for his head. Looking back - that was a mistake. That stated -- we have a new coach now who I believe is a winner and will win at UT. Let's stop looking backward and look forward to better days (they are coming).
Ha! I only go back as far as Battle and I know he wasn't really recruiting very well (I remember Majors telling a story of finding a closet with hundreds of reels of unwatched tape of high school prospects). But you are right, Neyland did pull them in from everywhere and I've heard Majors talk about his culture shock of meeting kids from various places outside of the South.
You are being facetious about your time here, right?
For my money those late 90's Tennessee teams rank as some of the most talented in college football history. Just look at how many of those guys ended up in the pros and many of them are still playing. It's a shame that many of the younger fans weren't around then. There was never a question of "will we win?" the question was "how much we would win by?" Any loss was an absolute shock.
Chris if you look further into those recruiting rankings you'll find that UT lost lots of 4-5 star studs due to attitude,grades,off field
antics, etc., in short more than our share of duds which is not shown in the surface rankings.
Don't know if its been mentioned - the recruiting classes weren't ranked all that badly...aside from maybe one or two. The real issue was the shocking amount of misses Fulmer had in his highly ranked classes. I don't know if this was due to 'laziness' in evaluation or just bad luck, but it's pretty clear that the misses have as much to do with his downfall as anything else.
This is a good rundown of 2008. But the recruiting rankings you see posted above had more flame outs than he had during his 1993-2001 run.
IMO, Fulmer continued to get great talent, but didn't have the assistants to capitalize on it and the attrition rate started to climb. Pat Washington is a good example of the harm a bad position coach can do. Could Fulmer recruit like the 90s forever? No. Especially as the SEC started to upgrade the various coaching staffs. But with those recruiting rankings, we should have had better teams. I think Fulmer was comfortable and cared too much for his friends/assistants to inject enough fresh blood into the system.
Tennessees season-ending football loss to Kentucky ranks as one of the worst games in recent school history.
Yea, a couple of those classes were full of misses......even though talent wasn't where it should be, the year he was fired we had a top 5 defense. Makes you wonder how things would have turned out if he had been given another year and fired clawson and returned to "regular"
Tennessee Footbal. But, he hired Clawson same as dooley hired Sunseri............Coordinators job performance is ultimately the responsibility of the HC. I tend to think if he had been given another couple of years we would have been playing "big-boy" football again. But, the past is gone.....and I'm cautiously optimistic that CBJ may even sell TN better than Fulmer did.
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