CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Tennessee’s Team 121 will open fall practice Saturday and coach Butch Jones has the task of getting the team ready.
Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer knows how much of a balancing act the first few weeks of fall practice can be. Injuries, such as Shy Tuttle’s leg, that followed Tennessee through last season and into the spring has made the job more difficult.
“There’s plenty of things to work for in the short term first, but also thinking about building the depth,” Fulmer said. “Finding the players that weren’t at spring practice, which was considerable, finding out where they work. A lot to do.”
A short-term task will be preparing the defense for Georgia Tech’s triple option offense in the season opener on Sept. 4.
“I am certain on the defensive side they are trying to get every look that they can at the Georgia Tech offensive attack,” Fulmer said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline along with fundamentals and technique.”
Working on getting the team ready in the short term while laying the base for championship teams set Fulmer apart as a coach.
Fulmer left Tennessee with a 152-52 record and led the Vols to a National Championship in 1998. The 17-year head coach of Tennessee also led the Vols to a SEC Championship in 1997.
“You never know,” Fulmer said. “There could be an injury, there could be anything. You build the foundation. I never went into a single season that I didn’t think I was going to win the conference. That’s the way we approached it. Obviously, you’re not going to do that.”
Tennessee won five SEC East Championships under Fulmer. Winning in the SEC every season can be a daunting task, and Fulmer recognizes it.
“It’s how are we going to make the very most of this football team,” Fulmer said. “Considering who all you play in our conference. Sometimes when you win eight, nine games that might be your best coaching job. You have to evaluate on the front end where you start and the back end where you finish.”