Fulmer acknowledged that the Vols didn't get the quantity of defensive tackle recruits they wanted, yet he clearly is tickled with the quality.
"We fell short in one particular area where we really tried hard – that was to get a couple of big, dominant defensive tackles," the head man said. "We just weren't able to do that.
"One young man we are very proud of is Montori Hughes," he hastened to add. "We feel like he is a guy we can develop into a really fine defensive tackle. At the same stage he reminds me very much of where Justin Harrell was when he came out of Martin, Tennessee."
Hughes, a 6-5, 275-pounder from Murfreesboro, recorded 106 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 13 sacks as a senior at Siegel High School. He played in the Toyota East-West Tennessee All-Star Classic and carries a 3-star rating from Scout, which ranks him No. 49 nationally among defensive tackle prospects.
Because supply never meets demand in terms of college-caliber defensive tackle prospects, several of Tennessee's recent DTs were transplants from other positions. Harrell, for instance, was signed as a tight end prospect. J.T. Mapu and Walter Fisher began their college careers as defensive ends. Perhaps there are some guys in Tennessee's current freshman class who are capable of converting to D-tackle, as well.
"That's always a possibility," Fulmer said. "They're 17 or 18 years old, so they get bigger and stronger once they get here. And we don't play a scheme that you have to be 320 pounds to play defensive tackle."
Although the Vols fell short of their recruiting goals at the position, their head coach hinted that the UT staff does not consider defensive tackle to be quite the glaring weakness looking ahead to 2008 that many fans and media types seem to.
"We're not void of tackles," Fulmer said. "We've just got to get our guys that are here to play. We really wanted some competition for that position – better than we were able to get it – but that doesn't mean we're not going to have a good defensive team at all."