Fulmer on early commitments

Tennessee has five early commitments in football – four from in-state players and one from Michigan with UT ties. The Vols are expected to get several more pledges this summer, possibly bringing the total to double digits before the season opener.

But that doesn't mean Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer likes the trend toward early commits. In fact, he still opposes.

``I think it's part of the process we've evolved to, with the recruiting services and the exposure that recruiting has gotten over the years,'' Fulmer said. ``Kids are more aware. Families are more aware. They travel more. There are more games they have a chance to see.

``It's harder for us because you're almost always a year out and you don't get to know them as well and you don't get to know as much about them as people or even as players. Many times, we're making decisions on guys before we've even seen them play.

``So, no, I'm not a big fan of this, but it's the way it is right now.''

Ole Miss and Mississippi State each have more than a dozen commitments. LSU and Florida are approaching double figures. Tennessee is in the middle of the SEC pack with five.

Not all of the players will end up at the school to which they have committed – some for academic reasons, some for character reasons. Now more than ever, coaches are held accountable for the actions of their players. But now more than ever, coaches know less about the student-athletes character because they don't have a chance to do a thorough background check before making an offer.

``The problem you get into, particularly for a school like Tennessee – and you could say the same for Nebraska and Iowa, schools that have to travel some distance to recruit – is you get more problems the further you get away from home base because you don't know as much about the recruits as you'd like to.

``That's why you want the time from January to February to really find out what the kids are like.''

Fulmer said offering a scholarship and actually taking the player are two different things.

``There's a process they have to go through to choose you and obviously a process we have to go through to choose them in the end, and that would be academics and character wise.

``Just because you take an early commitment or he gives one doesn't necessarily mean at the end of the day, that's the way it's going to be.''

Fulmer said he doesn't think the states that produce the most football prospects have a big edge when it comes to early commits.

``The schools in states that traditional have a high volume of athletes, they'll get theirs anyway -- the Floridas, the Georgias, the Texases,'' Fulmer said. ``But the great thing is, they can't get them all. There are enough players there at different places around the country.

``And this is one of the best years in Tennessee I can ever remember, so maybe this year will be different for us. I'm really excited about the pool of prospects in the state.''

Tennessee has early commitments from athlete Anthony Anderson of Austin-East, receiver-defensive back Tyler Maples of Maryville, running back-linebacker Kevin Cooper of Chattanooga, receiver Todd Campbell of the Nashville area, and offensive lineman Darius Sawtelle of Michigan.

Tennessee will have some camps this month at which time more evaluation will take place and more offers will be made. Expect more commitments before the clock strikes Independence Day.

Tennessee will offer scholarships to at least a dozen in-state players.

``It's a whole new game you play within the recruiting game to find the right mix of guys, the chemistry of guys, the character, the academics, all those things you've got to go through,'' Fulmer said.

``When you try to do that too early, sometimes you're not as efficient as you'd like to be.''

But if you don't make the early offers, you might find yourself playing catch-up in the all-important game of recruiting.

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