"Gerald's probably going to have to go home," Fulmer said following Thursday's practice. "Tomorrow (Friday) is really the last possible day. If we get something new (from the NCAA) that'd be great but it looks like he's probably going to have to go home."
The Vol coach said he didn't know what specific issues have delayed Williams' approval by the Clearinghouse. Nor does he know when the matter might be resolved.
"The Clearinghouse issue hasn't been cleared up," he said. "It may be cleared up in two days, five days, six months … I don't know. Hopefully, we can make some progress."
Even if Williams returns to his hometown, Fulmer said the player could rejoin the team if the Clearinghouse rules in the next few days.
"If it's a couple of days, obviously, we could get him right back," the coach said. "But if it's too long, he'll have to wait and come in January."
Williams was one of the stars of UT's first full-scale scrimmage of the preseason, showing sideline-to-sideline range and making some big-time hits. He was withheld from the final two scrimmages due to the Clearninghouse questions.
"It's tough on him," Fulmer said. "He looks like he's going to be a real good player and he's a fabulous young man."
Williams likely would've redshirted this season because the Vols are loaded at linebacker.
"We've got four senior linebackers," Fulmer noted. "And Jerod Mayo's playing really good. Marvin Mitchell's playing really good, and Ryan Karl's come on. We'd have had to have a couple of injuries for him to get in the mix but it still would've been nice to have him here working, getting himself ready.
"But it could end up helping him because he'll be a freshman again next year."
Although Williams likely would not have played this fall, the Vols left no stone unturned in their efforts to get him cleared to practice with the team.
"I don't know what all the issues are," Fulmer said. "But we tried everything we can try. It's in the Clearinghouse's hands. They say they have a lot (of eligibility cases) backed up."