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I think part of the problem was that Fulmer's recruiting tactics didn't evolve. With Saban & others constantly pushing the limits, using every possible second and gray area to gain a recruiting advantage, Fulmer was spending the bye week vacationing in Jackson Hole.
Recruiting has always been hard work, but it turned into a 24/7/365 type of deal and I don't think Fulmer quite adapted to that. He also relied on his own abilities too much...he was an ACE recruiter, but he had too many non-recruiter types on his staff. Impossible for a few guys to cover all of the ground necessary to pull top guys to Tennessee. Need to have everyone pulling in the same direction.
I think this is a well-reasoned explanation. Just to add some anecdotal support: go to YouTube and watch the 1995 UT vs. Bama, i.e., Peyton's first victory over the tide.
Fulmer paces the sidelines like a predator, has complete control of the team. You can just tell that guy isn't going to settle until he reaches the pinnacle.
I think the fairest way to describe Fulmer's final years was that he hit his worst slump at exactly the same time a new breed of mercenaries took over the SEC: Urban Meyer was literally trying to work himself to death at Florida, Saban was inventing new and exciting loopholes for recruiting and Spurrier landed back in the East after a stint in the NFL.
It seemed to me that Fulmer recognized the need to step-up when he hired Clawson, who at the time was one of the schematic geniuses of the FCS: young and handsome with a hungry staff.
Despite the catastrophically bad fit that Clawson turned out to be, not to mention the junior year meltdown by Crompton, UT seemed to settle into a groove by the end of the season with BJ Coleman at QB and the foundations of a Top 10 recruiting class anchored by Tajh Boyd and other blue chippers.
Hard not to wonder what the last few years might've been like...but hey, I'm a proud Son of a Butch now.
I think the root cause of Fulmer's recruiting problems was that he didn't get raises for his assistant coaches. When he won the NC he got a pretty good raise for himself but very little for his staff. And, even before the NC I think he could have kept Garner if he had paid him enough. And, also, I think the same thing for Trooper. He lost two great recruiters there that he could have kept. I think when Cutcliffe left for Ole Miss he was only making about $200,000 as the OC. Also, Dan Brooks wan't getting the big studs from the Carolinas that he had been getting. Some say it was because he was slow to adopt the use of texting to stay in contact with recruits. Fulmer had many opportunities to capitalize on the NC and strengthen his staff and it didn't happen.
Just want to say thanks for everything that has been said here. It's given me a lot to chew on.
And I certainly agree that we should be focused on the future and not the past. It's just that I find understanding the past to be pretty helpful for gauging how I think the "future" is shaping up. :)
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