Wednesday Practice Report

It's been a crazy rivalry and series in the past. Nothing seems to measure up to Tennessee and Alabama. Despite the fact that the SEC Championship is not hanging in the balance, there is still plenty riding on the outcome of Saturday's match-up.

Having been a part of the immense pressure both as a player and as a coach, Phillip Fulmer knows that this is still a "big game".

"I think there's always measuring sticks when you go into this profession," said Fulmer. "It just depends on who's doing what. When coach Dickey came through and when I was a player it (Alabama) was the game that you were measured on. Now there's about four or five. From the fans standpoint this is an important football game."

Speaking of which, Fulmer believes his team has handled the opposing crowd noise quite well. Couple that with Casey Clausen, the Vols senior quarterback has only lost one road game during his stellar four year career, and you've got a recipe for winning football games away from home.

"Florida was incredibly loud and we handled that well," Fulmer said. "We've been a good road team for the most part."

Dating back nearly a half-century, the streaks in this series have set it apart from all others. Both teams have enjoyed the dominance of winning along with the frustration of losing for years at a time.

Fulmer was left without an answer when asked why this has been such a streaky series in the past.

"I'm asked that every year," said Fulmer. "I have no idea. I don't have a good answer for that. It's been an unusual series that way. I hope we can stop their streak at one and we'll start another one."

As for the offense, all Fulmer wants is a little bit of balance in regards to the running attack and the passing game en route to a victory.

"I'd like to be able to run the football and have balance," Fulmer said. "One of our strengths is our senior quarterback. Whatever we've got to do to win the football game, I don't care. I'd like to be balanced."

There hasn't been a shortage of off the field incidents that have tarnished this game over the past few years either.

Three Alabama coaches in the span of six months. Both teams have fallen from the elite ranks of the SEC. Mix that in with the Alabama fans that blame Tennessee for putting them on probation and you've got real mess on your hands.

Fulmer shed some light on how he deals with potential problems that take the shape of student-athletes.

"I think we've worked with kids really well," said Fulmer. "We've had a few that have had some problems. There's a line we're not going to go over if it affects your program. It doesn't mean those kids were terrible kids. It's just Tennessee wasn't the right place for them. There's some maturing that needed to happen. You deal with each one independantly and separately. I think you have to do what's right for the program. Sometimes decisions are made when you can't sacrifice what you believe in as a program. You've got to do what you think is right. We've done quite well with the way we've done it."

The Vols practice on Thursday for the final time in Knoxville before taking off for Tuscaloosa on Friday.

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