Can UT salvage recruiting class?

Tennessee's football coaches will continue working hard to line up quality prospects for the future, even though those coaches may not be part of that future.

That's the word from head man Phillip Fulmer, who resigned under pressure Monday, effective at season's end. Asked how his staffers will handle the remainder of the recruiting process, the outgoing coach replied:

"Our staff will do a good job of that. We've done a great job to this point. We have a really, really good class lined up. I would expect that some of those guys will stick with us ... (pause) ... stick with UT."

Clearly, the reference to "us" indicates Fulmer still considers himself a part of program, even though he was informed last Sunday that he would not be retained for 2009.

Several of Tennessee's early commitments appear to be firm but several more are waiting to see who Fulmer's successor is before they decide whether or not to keep their pledges by signing scholarship papers in February.

What will the outgoing coach tell those recruits?

"The same thing I told 'em to get 'em here: It's a great place to be – great fans and facilities and tradition and opportunities are aplenty," Fulmer said. "They'll be able to see that. A number of them have been on campus already. Even through a very tough season, they've committed and stayed with us. Hopefully, a lot of those guys will do that."

One of Tennessee's recruiting advantages through the years has been the stability of its coaching staff. Fulmer is in Year 17 as the head man. John Chavis is in Year 14 as defensive coordinator. Dan Brooks is in his 15th year as defensive tackles coach. Steve Caldwell is in Year 14 as defensive ends coach and Larry Slade is in his 10th year as secondary coach.

Obviously, Fulmer's forced resignation alters the perception of rock-solid stability in UT's program. How much that will affect recruiting, however, remains to be seen.

"Each case is different," Fulmer said. "Everybody has their own things they want to accomplish or why they choose to go to a school. You cater to what their needs are. If the needs fit the wants, it's a pretty workable situation."

No matter who Tennessee chooses to follow Fulmer, the new head man's No. 1 charge will be to scour the globe in search of SEC-caliber prospects.

"There are some good players in-state every year but our challenge is where you go and how many of those guys do you bring in from other places," Fulmer said. "It's always in history been that way, and that will continue to be a challenge."


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