Fulmer likes lofty expectations

One year ago, with Tennessee coming off a humbling bowl loss and facing uncertainty at quarterback, expectations were low entering spring practice. Most fans figured anything more than seven wins would be a good year.

One year later, with Tennessee coming off a rousing bowl victory and blessed with a glut of quality quarterbacks, expectations are soaring. Most fans figure anything less than 11 wins will be a bad year.

That creates a lot of pressure but head coach Phillip Fulmer is accustomed to it. In fact, he relishes it. Great expectations means he has a veteran team with a lot of potential, and that's the way he'd prefer to open EVERY season.

''We have a good number of experienced players returning, which I think is always the most important factor in having a chance to be a good football team,'' he said at Monday's annual spring practice news conference. ''We have a number of starters returning on both sides (of the scrimmage line)."

With UT returning 18 starters from a 10-3 team that thrashed Texas A&M 38-7 in the Cotton Bowl, most fans are looking for even bigger things in 2005.

''There's a lot of expectations ... which I like,'' Fulmer said. ''I'd much rather be in that situation than in a situation where people don't expect you to be that good.''

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