Fulmer on UT's draft drought

The numbers are staggering.

For the first time since 1993, Tennessee did not have an offensive player taken in the NFL draft.

In the last three years, Tennessee has not had an offensive player drafted higher than the sixth round.

In the last eight years, Tennessee has had just five offensive linemen selected: Reggie Coleman, Cosey Coleman, Fred Weary, Scott Wells and Chad Clifton.

In the past four years, Tennessee ranks sixth in the SEC in number of players taken in the top four rounds of the draft, behind Georgia (18), LSU (14), Florida (11), Auburn (8) and Alabama (7). UT has had seven.

From 1996-2000, Tennessee had 15 first or second round picks. From 2001-06, the Vols had six.

If you don't think there's been a talent decline at Tennessee over the past five years, think again. It doesn't matter what the recruiting rankings say. A better indication is what the NFL draft says.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has noticed. He has noticed how few offensive players have been taken. He noticed a big zero in the most recent draft.

``I think the draft speaks to the problems we had on offense last year,'' Fulmer said of a unit that averaged 18.6 points per game, by far the worst in Fulmer's 14-year tenure.

``We've got to do a better job of evaluating the offensive players we're signing and we've got to do a better job of developing them.''

One NFL scout told me before the 2005 season that receiver Chris Hannon had first-round ability. Hannon wasn't drafted.

Gerald Riggs Jr. was considered one of the nation's top high school backs five years ago. He wasn't drafted.

Mike DeTillier, an NFL draft analyst from South Louisiana, said the most surprising Vol that went undrafted as offensive lineman Rob Smith, projected by DeTillier to go in the fifth or sixth round.

``He'll be a long-time NFL player,'' DeTillier predicted. ``He has technical skills and he's versatile.''

Offensive tackle Albert Toeaina also went undrafted. He was expected to go in the fifth or sixth round, according to DeTillier.

Tennessee had just one player taken in the first four rounds. In the fifth round, defensive end Parys Haralson, linebacker Omar Gaither and defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona were selected.

John Chavis, Tennessee defensive coordinator, thinks Mahelona was one of the steals of the draft and will have a productive NFL career.

Chavis thinks Toeaina has a chance to be a solid NFL player, pointing out that the 6-5, 320-pounder (who weighed 360 at UT) dominated Georgia's David Pollack during one matchup. Toeaina didn't always play motivated.

TENNESSEE FOOTBALL STAFF NO. 3 IN PAY

Auburn has the highest-paid football staff in the country, according to a survey done by the Indianapolis Star.

With head coach Tommy Tuberville making $2.2 million, Auburn's staff is paid $4.938 million, about $50,000 more than the staff at Texas ($4.88 million).

Tennessee is listed third, followed by Texas A&M and LSU. Georgia was ninth, Florida 10th and Alabama ($2.8 million) 21st.

Hamilton said UT's staff will make about $3.65 million this year, with assistants getting $1.6 million.

VENDORS SHOULD SERVE FANS IN STANDS

A Tennessee basketball fan suggested UT bring concessions to fans in the stands at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Hamilton agrees. He said cotton candy vendors do circulate but the same needs to be done for Coke, popcorn and other concessions.

Hamilton did note serving food and drinks is tougher in the arena because the stairs are long from top to bottom, but he said he's discussed this with UT's staff.

``We can certainly justify it with the larger crowds,'' Hamilton said.

NOTES: UT will bid out the new basketball practice facility on June 1, get bids back in early July, start construction in August and be finished by Oct. 1, 2007. At least, that's the plan, according to Hamilton. … Pearl said the SEC isn't a ``Johnny come lately conference,'' noting that in the last 14 years, the SEC has had 11 Final Four teams. Only the ACC has had more. … While many fans have a hard time finding a ticket to a UT football game, Hamilton said on the Thursday before a home game, students usually return hundreds of tickets, which are then sold to the general public at face value.


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