Change of Seasons on The Hill

Tis the season when the pursuit of victories on the road and at home changes course to one of visits on the road and at home. And no matter what direction Vol coaches travel — all roads lead to the future.

It's the nature of college football coaching that there is precious little time to celebrate wins or commemorate achievements. Before one game has been played, preparation on the next has already begun. Before one class of prospects has even been signed, the next class is already being recruited and the one after that is already being evaluated.

Accomplishment is the domain of fans who are free to deeply inhale the intoxicating air of sweet victory. They have license to indulge the golden afterglow of success. They can afford to revel in highlight tapes and celebrate championships.

Inevitably fans also let their expectations run wild and their hunger grow huge. And it's that appetite for more, better, best that drives college coaches to beat the streets to feed the beast.

It was only a matter of hours after the Vols went down in valiant defeat to undefeated Auburn in the Georgia Dome Saturday night, that UT's coaches were already hitting the recruiting road, fanning out to all points of the United States chasing top football talent.

The chase is like spring tonic to Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer, who is always energetic and enthusiastic, but imbued with an extra degree of intensity during the so-called second season. After all these years the fire in his belly still burns hot and his blood runs bright orange.

Where Fulmer goes when he hits the recruiting trail says a lot about where the Vols are headed in attempts to strengthen the football program. Last year one of his first stops was Deer Field Beach, Fla., for an in-home visit with quarterback prospect Brent Schaeffer. Nine months later Schaeffer was taking the first snap of Tennessee's 2004 season opener.

Fulmer was schedule to be back in south Florida this week attempting to sew up the services of five star defensive back Demetrice Morley, who is ranked the nation's No. 3 cornerback by Scout.com. The six-foot, 180-pound Miami Killian High School athlete is a soft verbal to the Vols after originally committing to Florida.

He is still looking at Auburn and N.C. State, but hasn't taken or scheduled any visits, yet. Fulmer's ‘we-need-YOU' appeal probably carried a lot of heft in light of UT's problems stopping Auburn's passing attack. If it's early playing time at a big-time program Morley is truly looking for well... he soft verbaled to the right place.

Another prize prospect in Miami sure to get Fulmer's undivided attention is Kenneth Phillips, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound DB with 4.50 speed, who is rated the nation's No. 1 safety in the Class of 2005. The Vols are competing with the Big Three — Florida, Florida State, Miami — for Phillips. Tennessee is trying to secure a January visit from the primo DB.

The Washington D.C. area is also a destination on Fulmer's travel itinerary and Derrick Williams is the object of desire. The 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver has blazing 4.40 speed and is considered one of the nation's top playmakers. While in the neighborhood Fulmer was expected to seek out D.C. linebacker Rico McCoy, 6-2, 215, 4.55, who attends St. John College High School and is rated the nation's No. 15 linebacker. McCoy is slated to make his official visit to Tennessee this weekend.

Fulmer is also expected to make a couple of stops in North Carolina this week where the nation's No. 5 running back Toney Baker resides. Known as "Touchdown Toney", the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Baker has 4.45 speed and has rewritten the state's rushing records the last three years. The Vols have a pledge from the Tar Heel State's top signal caller, Jonathan Crompton, who came off an outstanding senior campaign at Tuscola High School. Crompton is rated the nation's No. 5 quarterback in Scout.com's latest rankings and has been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American game next month in San Antonio, Texas.

Fulmer will also stop off in Milwaukee, Wis., where he'll look in on defensive end Raymond Henderson, who is currently listed as the country's No. 6 prospect at his position. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Henderson is an outstanding pass rusher with great size and 4.65 speed. He compiled 39 sacks his last two seasons at Oak Creek High School.

It's a long, tough recruiting road for Fulmer & Co., but the horizon holds bright promise.


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