Donnan believes in Fulmer

There was a time when Jim Donnan and Phillip Fulmer weren't exactly card-playing buddies.

Donnan accused Fulmer of running up the score in 1997 when Tennessee whipped the Georgia Bulldogs. As Tennessee padded Peyton Manning stats, Donnan yelled across the field at Fulmer, shaking his fist at the UT coach. Donnan then offered a few choice words during their post-game hand shake.

But that was a decade ago, and time heals most wounds.

Nowadays, Donnan is a football analyst for ESPN.

And nowadays, he is very complimentary of Fulmer.

``Coach Fulmer is one of the best coaches in the country,'' Donnan told the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday. ``He didn't forget how to coach.''

Maybe he forgot how to schedule. Donnan said the main reason UT has lost twice is the schedule – games at California and Florida. Donnan said LSU might have been the only SEC team that could have won at California.

He praised Tennessee for rebounding from getting its ``brains blasted out'' at Florida to drilling Georgia at home on Saturday. He said a loss like the one UT suffered at The Swamp can create self-doubts.

``I don't think that happened to this staff,'' Donnan said.

``Georgia was exposed. That was bad. It's like pulling your pants down in the sixth grade.''

Donna thinks the teams in the SEC East Division driver's seat are Tennessee and South Carolina. The Gamecocks are 3-1 in the SEC. UT is 1-1. Each controls its own destiny. Florida, with two SEC losses, needs some help.

Donnan said one reason Fulmer has been criticized locally is that he created a monster by winning a national championship and going 45-5 over a four-year period.

``It's hard to sustain,'' Donnan said. ``I think (UT) is on the way back, and, you know me, if I didn't, I'd tell you.''

Donnan told a couple of humorous stories about his days as an assistant coach at Oklahoma and a head coach at Marshall.

At Oklahoma, Donnan recalled the time Oklahoma led rival Texas 31-0 at halftime of the Red River Shootout. Coach Barry Switzer told the players to take off their shoulder pads and go watch the halftime show because he'd never seen it.

Later, Oklahoma played Arkansas in the Orange Bowl. Quarterback Jamelle Holieway asked Switzer if Oklahoma had a huge lead at halftime, could the Sooners watch the halftime show because Kool and the Gang was performing.

At Marshall, Donnan said his team was busing four hours to play Virginia Military. One of the two buses broke down. Donnan sent the first team on one bus and told coaches and players to hitch hike on the other bus. Everyone arrived on time except for four players.

Where were they?

Tailgaiting with the people that gave them a ride.

On other topics, Donnan said he predicts LSU and Ohio State will play for the national championship.

He said he'd like to see a Plus One format in which the national championship game is played after a semifinal game.

Donnan said he thinks schools should be able to hire a 10th assistant coach. ``Media guides have three of four pages to read about all the assistant athletic directors,'' he said. ``They got everything but a shoeshine boy for the athletic director.''

He said the 20-hour rule is unrealistic and that everyone violates it.

Donnan noted that Steve Spurrier's confidence exudes to his players and that's why the Gamecocks have beaten Florida, Tennessee and Georgia in 2½ seasons.

When someone asked if parity in college football would be like the NFL where 8-4 and 9-3 would be considered a good season, Donnan said: ``I always thought 8-4, 9-3 was pretty good.'' Those were Donnan's records in his last three seasons at Georgia before he was fired.

Donnan pointed out that Ron Zook at Illinois (5-1) has a better record than Urban Meyer at Florida (4-2).

Donnan said research indicated that despite kickoffs from 5 yards farther back, the average starting position after a kickoff was only 3.5 yards better than last year. But, he said, that small amount of yardage gives teams a 20 percent better chance to score.

Donnan said talk shows and internet chatter have created more authorities. He wasn't complimentary of talk-show callers: ``Most of the people that call in don't know if a football is blown up or stuffed.''

He said ESPN will carry 485 college games this year. CBS is next with 27.

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