Tennessee entered the season replacing six of the seven starters on the defensive line and at linebacker, then saw preseason All-America Justin Harrell lost for the year after just three games with a biceps injury. Add to that the loss of key secondary stopper Inquoris Johnson and it's no wonder UT relied strongly on the offense to compile a 9-3 record in 2006.
Former All-America and All-SEC performer Antone Davis (offensive tackle, 1987-90) was one of the notables in attendance Thursday. Davis was the most recent Vol to win the Jacobs Award - presented annually to the SEC's top blocker - until current senior Arron Sears claimed the honor this year. Davis won the Jacobs Award in 1990, and the first-round draft pick spent the next seven seasons in the NFL.
Speaking of Sears, Fulmer praised his All-America tackle for his play this season.
"He's had a fabulous season, and I think it just goes to show that staying in school can turn into a real positive," he said. "He has definitely helped himself from a draft standpoint, which is one of the reasons he stayed. But most of all, he stayed to have a great year. One of his goals was to win the Jacobs Award and he did that."
Former All-America linebacker and College Football Hall of Famer Frank Emanuel (1963-65) attended practice after joining the administration for dinner Wednesday night. And Rory Cunningham (offensive guard, 1980), Derrick Edmonds (defensive back, 1996-99), Orian McCants (quarterback, 1992) and Jimmy Dunn (assistant coach for offensive backs from 1964-69) rounded out the list of Tennessee football family members on hand Thursday.
BIG ORANGE TAILGATE TOUR
The UT National Alumni Association has a full slate of events for Tennessee alumni, friends and fans at this year's Outback Bowl.
Sunday, athletics director Mike Hamilton is hosting a dessert and coffee reception at the Renaissance International Plaza Hotel beginning at 1:30 p.m. Cost is $10 per person. And later that night, a New Year's Eve Party sponsored by the Tampa Bay Alumni Chapter takes place at Boston's, the chapter's TV party location on Anderson Road. The party goes from 8 p.m. to 2 p.m. and is $50 per person.
Those events lead into Monday?s Big Orange Tailgate Tour event at Raymond James Stadium, site of Tennessee?s Outback Bowl game against Penn State. The location is between gates B and C on the stadium?s east side.
A full breakfast buffet kicks off at 8 a.m., with the UT band, cheerleaders and Smokey on site until 10:30. Door prizes include two airline tickets to a 2007 away game and former College Football Hall of Fame member and Volunteer All-America Frank Emanuel will be in attendance.
Cost is $25 per person and reservations can be made by calling Kris Phillips at (865) 599-5898.