Fulmer's folly?

Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer is the winningest active coach, percentage-wise, in college football. He makes $2.05 million per year. He's good with Xs and Os. He's a relentless recruiter. He's a shrewd judge of talent.

All things considered, Fulmer appears to be a bright guy. Still, he may have taken leave of his senses by agreeing to let Vol fans go on-line to pick the first play of Saturday's Orange & White spring game. More than 1,500 die-hards took advantage of the offer.

I've followed Tennessee football for 40 years, and I can assure you the fans didn't vote for an off-tackle smash. No doubt, their selection will be the type of razzle-dazzle play the Vols would never, EVER use in an actual game.

My guess is the opening play will go something like this: Quarterback Jonathan Crompton takes the snap, fakes a handoff to LaMarcus Coker going right, then laterals to Lucas Taylor in the left flat. Taylor starts upfield, then abruptly turns and flings a pass to Coker, who has slipped unnoticed out of the backfield.

The obvious question: What if the play works, producing a spectacular 70-yard touchdown? The obvious answer: Fulmer would never hear the end of it.

If you think something like this can't happen, you're wrong. It already has. Bill Veeck, maverick owner of Major League Baseball's lovably inept St. Louis Browns in the 1950s, once gave his team's fans a similar opportunity. Ushers distributed flash cards and encouraged fans to vote on when to change pitchers, which pinch-hitter to use, etc. Interestingly enough, the fans enjoyed more success, strategically speaking, than the Browns' manager.

I suspect the opening play of the Orange & White game will involve at least three skill-position players touching the ball. I suspect it will gain a big chunk of yardage. I suspect the fans will go wild. And I suspect Fulmer will be hearing about it for a long, long time.

Still, I give UT credit for a brilliant marketing ploy. Athletics director Mike Hamilton is trying to create a fan-friendly atmosphere. Hiring a live-wire such as Bruce Pearl to coach the basketball team was a good start. Providing free admission to the Orange & White game is a good step. Allowing fans to pick the starting lineups and the opening play of the O&W game is a nice touch, as well … unless your name is Phillip Fulmer, and your team is coming off a lackluster Outback Bowl loss to Penn State.

Regardless, here are the lineups Vol fans picked for Saturday's game:

OFFENSE: Eric Young and Ramone Johnson at tackle, Ramon Foster and Jacques McClendon at guard, Josh McNeil at center, Chris Brown at tight end, Lucas Taylor and Josh Briscoe at wide receiver, LaMarcus Coker at running back, David Holbert at fullback, Jonathan Crompton at quarterback.

DEFENSE: Xavier Mitchell and Robert Ayers at end, J.T. Mapu and Demonte Bolden at tackle, Jerod Mayo, Ryan Karl and Rico McCoy at linebacker, Jonathan Hefney, Roshaun Fellows, Antonio Wardlow and Antonio Gaines at defensive back.

Gates open Saturday at 11:45. Fans Day will be observed, with UT supporters allowed onto the field for pre-game autographs. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m., with a razzle-dazzle play to follow shortly thereafter.


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