UT will miss Trooper

I don't know if Trooper Taylor can call plays. I don't know if he would be an outstanding offensive coordinator.

But I do know Tennessee will miss the enthusiastic and excitable coach who is headed to Oklahoma State as co-offensive coordinator.

Taylor was a sound position coach. When he had the running backs, they improved. When he had the receivers, they improved.

Taylor was also an outstanding recruiter. He got players from Florida and Louisiana and wherever else he was needed.

Taylor also related well to his position players – and other players on the team. He is charismatic and caring. And his infectious personality will be missed by all – especially the minority players.

With Taylor and Gerald Harrison, director of high school relations, both leaving, that's double trouble for coach Phillip Fulmer, who not only must find an offensive coordinator and three other offensive assistants, but he must now address the issue of having just one black assistant – secondary coach Larry Slade. Harrison has gone to Duke to join David Cutcliffe as head of football operations, getting a substantial raise.

Fulmer might hire a fantastic offensive coordinator. He might fill other offensive positions with coaches better than Kurt Roper and Matt Luke. But he won't find an assistant as valuable in the overall scheme as Taylor.

Cutcliffe, who took the Duke job Dec. 15, was so sold on Taylor, he lobbied for Fulmer, his close friend, to do whatever he could to keep the energetic 37-year-old.

Fulmer was not persuaded.

I'm sure Fulmer has his reasons for not naming Taylor the offensive coordinator. Fulmer has spent four years in meeting rooms and on the practice fields with Taylor. Fulmer knows better than I whether Taylor is ready to call plays, to formulate game plans, to be the leader of an offensive staff.

But I know this: Losing Taylor is a huge blow to Tennessee's staff.

Fulmer never offered Taylor any hope that he would promote him to offensive coordinator, not even co-offensive coordinator. And if Fulmer had come back to Taylor after interviewing a handful of candidates, I'm sure Taylor would have stayed, rather than move to Oklahoma State to be co-offensive coordinator.

If Fulmer has trouble hiring a coordinator, would he re-consider Taylor? I'm told no. I hope that wouldn't be because internet chatter and message boards and media members have suggested Fulmer is making a huge mistake by letting Taylor go.

Fulmer should do what's best for his program – not hide behind pride to reject unsolicited advice. I'm not saying that is the case. I am saying it should not be the case.

Fulmer has not succeeded in luring Kippy Brown (Lions), Frank Cignetti (49ers) or Rob Spence (Clemson) to Tennessee. Fulmer even made a second run at Spence.

At this point, I think the best move for Fulmer and his program is to name Taylor offensive coordinator.

Taylor isn't a proven play caller. But neither was Fulmer when he was promoted by Johnny Majors in 1989. Neither was Cutcliffe was he was promoted by Fulmer in 1993.

Everyone has a starting point.

That starting point for Taylor is now – at Oklahoma State, not Tennessee.

Fulmer should know best about Taylor's attributes.

But I'm not sure if Fulmer knows how much the program will miss Taylor.

He'll find out this season.

FOSTER GETS SECOND-ROUND PROJECTION

Tennessee running back Arian Foster, who rushed for roughly 1,200 yards this season, has received the highest draft projection of four players that tested the NFL waters

Foster got a second-round grade, according a UT coach.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo had a third-round projection, the coach said.

Guard Anthony Parker and punter Britton Colquitt also sought draft status from an NFL Advisory Board. Their projections were not known but it is doubtful either will turn pro.

Foster's projection is surprising, considering his lack of a burst through the hole.

Mayo, a much better NFL prospect than Foster, indicated he would return unless he was a first-round possibility.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL, but can change their minds within 72 hours and return to college.

EXTRA POINTS: Safety Demetrice Morely, a 2006 starter who was academically ineligible last season, has been readmitted to UT and is expected to enroll Wednesday after attending Pellissippi State. … Brandon Warren, who made freshman All-America tight end at Florida State in 2006 but sat out last season in an effort to transfer to UT, also has attended Pellissippi State but his status is still unknown. He should find out within days. … Two incoming freshmen – running back Tauren Poole of Toccoa, Ga., and fullback-linebacker Austin Johnson of Hickory, N.C. – are expected to enroll Wednesday.


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