Is the magic back?

Several times last spring Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer found himself watching offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe teaching the quarterbacks, lecturing the offensive linemen and motivating the wide receivers. Sometimes it seemed like 1998 all over again.

"It's almost like he's never been gone," Fulmer said earlier this year. "We just kind of picked up, going back to January recruiting. It's wonderful."

Maybe so, but Cutcliffe WAS gone, and the Vol attack sputtered during his absence. After averaging 34.9 points per game during Cutcliffe's six-year reign as coordinator, the Vols averaged just 27.5 during Randy Sanders' seven-year tenure. That's why Sanders is gone and Cutcliffe is back for a second tour of duty.

With Cutcliffe running the offense and John Chavis overseeing the defense, Fulmer has the same coordinator duo in place that guided Tennessee to a remarkable 45-5 record, two SEC titles and a national title between 1995 and 1998.

"It's wonderful having him and the pair of them (Chavis and Cutcliffe) together," Fulmer said. "They give us great leadership from the coordinator positions, and I have great trust in them."

Although Cutcliffe made some changes in the offensive scheme during spring practice, Fulmer knows it will take more than a few modifications to fix an attack that averaged a mere 18.6 points per game last fall.

"The magic is not in the plays, the schemes or even the guy calling the plays," the head man said. "The magic is in the effort and the execution. That's where we made some strides.

"You can be a wishbone team, a veer team, a run-and-shoot team. It (magic) is still going to be effort and execution."

Maybe Cutcliffe can restore the effort and execution to the lofty levels of 1995 through 1998. If so, the magic just might be back in Tennessee's offense relatively soon.


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