"A year experience made a big difference for him. Dre didn't grasp our system last year as fast as we would have liked. But now he understands the system."
Fulgham played in eight games last season, but his stat sheet shows only two receptions for 42 years. Long known as one of the best all-around athletes on the squad, Fulgham's coaches are expected him to have a breakout year in 2002. "We look for good things out of Dre," Pope said. "He'll give a different edge than we had a year ago."
Though most fans assume that a receiver's job is relatively simply--just run down field and catch the football--there really is a lot to learn. Pope explained, "I think we'll be a little bit better at that spot because of his better understanding. When you understand, then your motor runs a little different. Dre's playing at a different speed now. He's running good routes, and for his size he ran well in the 40-yard dash."
As staff writer Evan Woodbery explained in the recent issue of ‘BAMA: Inside the Crimson Tide, Fulgham actually came to football rather late in his life, only taking up the sport full-time during his junior year of high school--after repeated entreaties from his high school coach.
That Montevallo head coach knew raw physical ability when he saw it, and Fulgham is even better now. "He's improved his speed and obviously his strength," Pope said. "He has to be one of the strongest receivers in the SEC. He is a very strong guy. He will be only my fourth guy that bench presses over 400 pounds. You don't find that many receivers that strong.
"He has more than enough (strength) to be successful and he's still trying to go for more. He holds two records right here and he'll increase those."
420 pounds is the mark that Fulgham currently holds on the flat bench press, and his 390-pound lift on the incline bench also sets the pace for Tide receivers.
Coming out of high school Fulgham was generally considered the top receiver prospect in 1998. He had 40 receptions for more than 800 yards to average 207 yards per catch along with 16 TDs his last year of high school.
Fulgham's impressive spring has caught the attention of all the Tide coaches, not just his position coach. "He's made a lot of improvement," Pope said. "I have to have confidence in my players, but also the coaches around me do, too. When we sit down and talk about players, it's not just one guy's opinion. But now this staff feels good about Dre Fulgham.
"If you ask anybody about him, they'll give you positive things."
Already know as one of the fastest, strongest and highest-jumping athletes on the squad, Fulgham is now determined to transfer those considerable skills to the playing field. "He has a point that he wants to prove--that he's a very good football player," Pope said. "He made that statement this spring in the way that he went through his 15 days (of practice). He showed more confidence, so I feel good about him."