Pretty face gets answers

Don't get me wrong – I never wanted to be a woman. But in my profession, it has its advantages.

For example, a pretty face can ask a pretty hard question - or a pretty dumb one - and the coach, generally, treats the inquisitor with respect.

It happened Monday afternoon at the Knoxville Quarterback Club.

A pretty blonde female asked the guest speaker – who happened to be Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer – why the secondary played so soft on the corners against Kentucky in the second half at Lexington.

Now, I've asked this question about soft corners a few times this season, and the answer I get back: The secondary is young and the main goal is not to give up a big play.

I get that. But isn't giving a 10-yard cushion on third-and-8 a big play? Isn't allowing a team to march down field and score a touchdown with short passes just as harmful as giving up a 50-yard bomb?

I ask a question about soft corners, and I get an ugly stare.

A pretty face asks that question, and the coach is compassionate. He answers with a soft, understanding voice – not a growl.

``When you play close, they run by you,'' Fulmer explained. ``When you play off, it makes them go the hard way. With a young secondary, you have to make a choice.

``Does that explain it for you?''

That's what a coach usually asks me when I ask a touchy question – Does that explain it for you?

Fulmer wasn't through. He said what I expected him to say when I asked the question earlier this season.

``We played way too soft and it was not necessarily always by design,'' Fulmer said of the Kentucky game. ``As a group, Kentucky had the best wide receivers we played against all year long, and Andre Woodson can throw the ball.

``After we got torched a couple of times, our guys played too soft. Kentucky didn't throw for 40 yards, but they caught it and ran for 25 yards. That's not good, either.''

No, it's not. And if Tennessee plays that way against LSU, the Tigers might score 50 points without needing four overtimes.

About 15 minutes later, the same cute, blonde woman asked Fulmer a similar question. She wanted to know if Tennessee was going to play soft on the corners in the second half against LSU.

Now, if I'd asked that question, Fulmer might have tried to revoke my press credentials. But to the pretty face, he said:

``We don't want to be soft. We don't want to be soft. We'll try to not let them catch a pass.''

How diplomatic.

The next time I've got a tough question for Fulmer, I'm not raising my hand. I'm going to find a pretty blonde to do the dirty work. I'm going to have her ask Fulmer if he thinks he deserves a raise and an extension, if he's going to make any staff changes, if he thinks Nick Saban was worth $4 million to Alabama after going 6-6.

And if he thinks the cornerbacks should play press coverage.


Fulmer was unhappy with the unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty called on Arian Foster after the UT running back threw the ball when he failed to score on a 2-point conversion run in the third overtime.

The dead ball penalty was assessed on the next possession, giving UT the ball on its 40. No matter. UT scored on the first snap.

``You probably don't make that call in that type game, but technically, it's a foul,'' Fulmer said.

If you don't make that call, then the officials are guilty of selective enforcement.

How do you explain to Kentucky coach Rich Brooks that you didn't call the foul because it was a key moment in the game.

Fulmer also felt the f ace-mask penalty against Kentucky on Eric Berry's return of a blocked field-goal attempt was huge. Because it was a live-ball foul, no penalty was assessed.

``If he (Kentucky defender) doesn't grab Eric Berry by the face mask, he scores,'' Fulmer said. ``There was an offensive lineman out there and I don't think he'd have caught Eric Berry.''


Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said the SEC adopted a provision before last year that would prevent the SEC Championship game loser from dropping below the Capital One, Outback or Cotton bowls.

Under the four-year agreement, those three bowls would have one year in which it didn't have to take the SEC title game loser.

However, Charles Bloom of the SEC office said the four-year agreement includes four bowls – adding the mix the Chick Fil-A bowl in Atlanta.

If Hamilton is right – and he insists he is – then UT could end up in the Outback Bowl if it loses to LSU. Hamilton said he's confident the Vols won't fall out of a New Year's Day bowl. With the Capital One looking at Florida or Georgia and the Cotton going after 8-4 Arkansas, that could mean a second consecutive trip to Tampa for UT.


Fulmer was asked about Internet reports that he might be losing a couple of assistant coaches.

``We've got good coaches,'' Fulmer said. ``We're very fortunate. Every year you've got people trying to get your coaches, whether it's the NFL or a head coaching job in college.

``I like stability, but sometimes you can't keep everybody.

EXTRA POINTS: Fulmer said running back Montario Hardesty (ankle) is questionable, meaning Lennon Creer could get plenty of action against LSU. … LSU coach Les Miles said All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is bothered by a back bruise that has caused spasms, not the knee injury suffered on an illegal chop bock by an Auburn player. ``There's really no knee issue,'' Miles said. … The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star reported that Nebraska interim athletic director Tom Osborne and chancellor Harvey Perlman interviewed LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini on Sunday without the permission of LSU athletic director Skip Bertman. ``Are you kidding me?'' Bertman responded, when asked about the interview. Bertman said no Nebraska official asked for permission to talk to Pelini. … Miles said he wouldn't hesitate to play backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who didn't play against Arkansas and was suspended for the Alabama game. Tennessee beat the two teams that beat LSU (Kentucky and Arkansas) and LSU beat the two teams that beat Tennessee (Alabama and Florida). … Fulmer said Arkansas running back Darren McFadden belongs in the same category as former SEC greats Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories