"In my 28 years of being around Tennessee football as an assistant or head coach, this is the best year in the state of Tennessee that I have seen," he said, shortly after getting 27 newcomers on National Signing Day. "Not only were there some outstanding football players, but also some outstanding character young men."
Apparently so. This is generally regarded as a top-five national class. And, counting five mid-term enrollees already on campus, 11 of the 32 Class of 2007 signees call the Volunteer State home.
The home-grown prospects are receivers Todd Campbell (Franklin), Anthony Anderson (Knoxville Austin-East) and Tyler Maples (Maryville), running backs Dennis Rogan (Knoxville Fulton) and Josh Hawkins (Loudon), quarterback B.J. Coleman (Chattanooga), fullback Kevin Cooper (Chattanooga), defensive linemen Cory Hall (Chattanooga) and Rae Sykes (Alcoa), linebackers Chris Donald (Huntington) and Chris Walker (Memphis).
All told, 13 states were represented. The Vols lured three signees each from talent hotbeds Florida and Texas, and three more from Virginia.
The Floridians are defensive lineman Rufus Williams (Mims), plus defensive backs Dashaun Barnes (Tallahassee) and Art Evans (Lakeland). The Texans are safety Nevin McKenzie (Trinity Valley Community College), plus Tatum High teammates Lennon Creer and Darnius Moore. The Virginians are cornerback C.J. Fleming (Highland Springs), linebacker Savion Frazier (Woodbridge) and receiver Brent Vinson (Hargrave Military).
Tennessee also picked up two players each from South Carolina and California.
The South Carolina signees are defensive lineman William Brimfield (Neeses) and defensive back DeAngelo Willingham (Calhoun). The Left Coast guys are offensive lineman Cody Pope (San Diego) and wideout Kenny O'Neal (City College of San Francisco).
The Big Orange also locked down receiver Ahmad Paige (Sterlington, La.), cornerback Eric Berry (Fairburn, Ga.), offensive lineman Darris Sawtelle (Birmingham, Mich.), defensive tackle Donald Langley (Germantown, Md.), defensive lineman Rolando Melancon (Lutcher, La.), receiver Gerald Jones (Oklahoma City), defensive end Ben Martin (Cincinnati, Ohio) and tailback Daryl Vereen (Charlotte, N.C.).
Fulmer said he is "extremely excited" about this signing class. The coach said early commitments from the in-state prospects helped the Vols get off to a great start, adding that they had "quite a surge in December" and "another surge at the Army All-America Game in January."
Fulmer said he believes Tennessee's greatest areas of need – wide receiver and defensive back – were met.
The coach noted that UT has to make "significant strides in the secondary" after losing 2006 starters Jonathan Wade, Antwan Stewart and Demetrice Morley. Minus the top three wideouts of 2006 – Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith – Fulmer said his team "had to have some help at wide receiver … and I think we did really well in that area."
Academically, the coach said this is a good group but conceded that "a couple have work to do."