The Vols finished 9-3 overall and 5-3 in SEC play, despite minimal contributions from first-team defensive tackle Justin Harrell and first-team cornerback Inquoris Johnson. Both suffered season-ending injuries in Game 2.
The Vols also lost some key players to short-term injuries. These included first-team quarterback Erik Ainge, tailbacks Arian Foster and LaMarcus Coker, defensive lineman Walter Fisher and linebacker Jerod Mayo.
Tennessee could've gone in the tank – as the 2005 team did – but the 2006 group showed a level of perseverance and camaraderie that enabled it to fight through the difficulties.
"I compliment our senior leadership and our staff," Fulmer said. "It's a tough group of men. They've shown character and toughness. (The season finale vs. Kentucky) was an example of that. It's great to win when you don't play particularly well.
"The players and coaches are tough guys, competitors. They're not going to get too high or too low. I'm really proud of what they've gotten done."