Fulmer on hot seat?

Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer is one of three high-profile college football coaches on the hot seat heading into the 2006 season. So says "College Football Insider" columnist Matt Hayes in the March 31 issue of The Sporting News.

In an opinion piece headlined "Make the quick fix or risk a quick fall," Hayes writes that Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione, Miami's Larry Coker and Fulmer are "at a crossroads and each must use this spring to find a way out of the mess."

Hayes noted that head men historically shake up their coaching staffs when they're feeling some heat. Franchione has hired a new defensive coordinator (Gary Darnell) after watching the Aggies allow 31.4 points per game over the past three seasons. Coker has five new aides on his staff this spring and Phil Fulmer has three.

Hayes refers to the 5-6 Vols of 2005 as "the biggest underachievers of the past two decades." He goes on to note that Fulmer responded by re-hiring former offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe "instead of searching for new ideas."

The writer pointed out that Cutcliffe's offense worked in the 1990s, even though "everyone in the stadium knew what it was doing," but suggested 2006 will be his "biggest test." The reason? "He must rebuild quarterback Erik Ainge's confidence and give the offense an identity again – something it hasn't had since 2001. And he has to do it fast."

Whether you agree or disagree, Hayes' piece raises some interesting issues … issues many Vol fans will be pondering at great length between now and September.

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