Blasting team can hurt recruiting

Tennessee running backs coach Trooper Taylor had a request of Vol fans: Be careful what you say.

Speaking Monday at the Knoxville Quarterback Club, Taylor asked the estimated 250 in attendance to lend a helping hand.

``The Internet and talk shows are the toughest thing to overcome,'' Taylor said.

Taylor said that a dozen of UT's top recruits have received emails plucked from UT message boards blasting the team, the players and the coaches.

``You can't love a family and slice it,'' Taylor told the pro-UT crowd. ``If our family members say, `Fire the coach,' or `We're awful,' which place are you going to go to school?''

Taylor said a school is ``fighting with a short stick'' in recruiting if its own fans are that critical. ``If you don't think what you say on the Internet or on the radio has an impact, you're wrong.''

Taylor gave the analogy of a patient in the doctor's office. If the nurse starts criticizing the doctor, the patient will ``take a skateboard'' to the next doctor's office.

Of course, you could argue that losing 59-20 to Florida will affect recruiting.

You might be right. But as a great recruiter once told me, a great recruiter can overcome any obstacles. If you're winning, you sell the prospect on playing for a winner. If you're losing, you sell the prospect on helping turn the program around and getting early playing time.

Taylor said he understands the frustration fans feel about losing a one-sided game to Florida and starting 1-2.

Taylor's own son wanted to attend church on Sunday with a bag over his head. Taylor wouldn't allow it.

Taylor said he appreciates the passion and caring of the Tennessee fans. And he promised UT would ``turn over every stone'' to find answers.

Taylor also took up for embattled coach Phillip Fulmer, who is 15-12 in his last 27 games and has beaten just one top-10 team at home since 1999.

``If you think you'll find someone who likes Tennessee football more than Coach Fulmer, you're wrong,'' Taylor said. ``Nobody will outwork him. Nobody.''

Taylor said that Monday morning, while going from his office to Gibbs Hall, Fulmer saw some trash on the ground and stopped to pick it up.

``I don't know too many $2 million people who stop and pick up trash,'' Taylor said. ``They usually leave that for someone else.''

Taylor took exception to those who say UT doesn't want to play young receivers early. He said UT will play them when they're ready.

``Kenny O'Neal and Brent Vinson have to earn it,'' Taylor said. ``I don't care if they got five stars (by recruiting services). I'm not going to tell Austin Rogers, `We're gonna start Kenny O'Neal because he's got five stars.'

``When Kenny and Brent earn their way, they'll play.''

Taylor said he didn't believe in scaling back the offense for the receivers because you have to have answers for the variety of defenses thrown at you, and that if you lower the bar the receivers won't try to learn the entire system.

Taylor said that while the new wideouts aren't quite ready to play, they've had an impact on some returnees. He said Gerald Jones has made Josh Briscoe better.

``Before, I couldn't find Briscoe with a flashlight in the day time,'' Taylor said. ``Now, every time I turn around, I bump into him.''

Taylor said one reason the Vols haven't run the ball better is the receivers haven't proven they can beat man-to-man coverage, so teams are lining up eight or nine in the box and challenging the wideouts with single coverage.

``We've got to be able to say, `They got 12 in the box and bring the band, we're gonna run,''' Taylor said.

But that hasn't happened.

``Until we make big plays on the perimeter and they (defenses) start playing cover two, we'll have trouble running the football,'' Taylor said. ``They don't respect our guys out there. They play man and don't think we can go long.''

Taylor said UT won't have a repeat of the 5-6 record of 2005. He said some players two years ago complained about having to work hard.

``The big difference with that team was attitude,'' Taylor said. ``We had more guys worried about going to the pros.''


Taylor said it was evident Florida ran up the score by leaving quarterback Tim Tebow in the game until the final five minutes, leading 52-20.

``I don't have any right to question Urban Meyer because he's won a national championship,'' Taylor said. ``But I don't want my guy getting hit.''


Taylor said rumors that he and defensive coordinator John Chavis got into a fight recently are untrue.

Taylor said he talks frequently with Chavis to help dissect opposing defenses.

``I wear him out,'' Taylor said. ``He's forgotten more football than I'll ever know. That guy'd give me the shirt off his back and I'd so the same for him.''


If UT were to fire Fulmer after this season, it would owe Fulmer about $4 million.

And with the staff recently being given contracts, the buyout would be almost $2.38 million for all the assistants, including the coordinators, who have three-year deals.

That would be a total buyout of almost $6.4 million.

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