Vols snubbed in All-SEC voting

Tennessee had only five players on the Coaches All-SEC teams. Seven SEC teams had more players. Kentucky had six on one of the three teams. So what does Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer think of the Vols having fewer all-star players than the Wildcats?

Not much.

``Right now I could care less who is All-SEC or anything else or who gets drafted next year or whatever,'' Fulmer said. ``I'm very focused on our football team and the people that care about our football team.

``That's all media stuff. That's not our concern right now. All those other things will happen for them if we win games.''

Offensive tackle Arron Sears thought it was an insult that Kentucky had more All-SEC candidates.

``Wow,'' he said. ``That's the first time I heard that, the first time I heard that. That means we definitely have something to prove, right.''

On the media All-SEC teams, Tennessee had six players, two more than Kentucky. But six other SEC teams had more on the squads than Tennessee.

FULMER LIKES TOUGH OPENERS

California is a consensus No. 10 in the preseason, according to a survey of seven preseason polls. The Bears were picked as high as sixth by CBS Sportsline and as low as 16th by Phil Steele.

Fulmer said it helps with offseason workouts when you're playing a quality opponent in the season opener.

``I think it makes a difference,'' Fulmer said. ``We've seen it both ways since I've been at Tennessee. I like it much better when you start with (a quality) opponent because the summer seems to go much better.''

In Fulmer's 14 openers, he's faced three ranked teams. The Vols beat No. 17 Syracuse in 1998 en route to a national championship and No. 22 Southern Miss in 2000 at the start of an 8-4 season. In 1994, the Vols lost at No. 14 UCLA after starting quarterback Jerry Colquitt was injured on the first series and UT went 8-4.

By the way, UT has a 23 average in the preseason polls, with a high of 12 by Steele and a low of 30 by CBS. UT is No. 18 by The Sporting News and No. 20 by Athlon.

Ohio State is No. 1 followed by Notre Dame, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Auburn, Florida and LSU. No. 11 is Florida State with Louisville, Miami, Michigan, Georgia, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Nebraska and Penn State rounding out the top 20. Alabama is 28 and Arkansas 33.

That means UT is facing three top 10 teams and four top 15 teams.

AINGE MUST REGAIN TEAMMATES' CONFIDENCE

Fulmer said quarterback Erik Ainge must regain the confidence of his teammates.

Translation: Ainge lost his teammates' confidence last year.

``I don't think there's any question that's the case,'' Fulmer said. ``I think he lost his own confidence. But it's not something impossible to overcome.''

Fulmer thinks Ainge will regain his confidence and that of the team with hard work and production.

``It's not like we're trying to put a square peg in a round hole,'' Fulmer said.

FULMER'S CONFIDENCE WAS A BIT SHAKY

Did the 5-6 season cause Fulmer to lose some of his confidence?

``I think it's only human nature,'' Fulmer said. ``You sit back and say, `Gosh dang, we've won five of the last nine East Division titles. What happened?'

``What happened was a series of poor coaching, poor quarterback play, the schedule, injuries. You want an audit … those have to be a part of it. At Christmas time I was really angry, but I bounced right back.''

FULMER NOT COMFORTABLE WITH ANY AREA

Fulmer was asked which area of his team he felt most comfortable about.

``None,'' he said.

That's right, none. Even though he returns all four secondary starters, three talented running backs, his kicker and his punter, Fulmer said none.

That's a good thing. Fulmer said he and his team made too many assumptions last year. That won't be the case this year, Fulmer said.

``We have some significant issues we have yet to overcome that are not going to be fixed in a day,'' Fulmer said. ``Can we overcome them enough to beat Cal or Florida? Yes. We can do that, But it's not going to be just because we're Tennessee and we roll our helmet out there.''


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