Coker's suspension indefinite

Fulmer says it ‘goes back a ways’ about ‘remorseful’ running back

Tennessee running back LaMarcus Coker, center, helps his teammates line up during last Friday’s practice at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee running back LaMarcus Coker, center, helps his teammates line up during last Friday’s practice at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Tennessee running back LaMarcus Coker, center, helps his teammates line up during last Friday’s practice at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

Tennessee running back LaMarcus Coker, center, helps his teammates line up during last Friday’s practice at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Entering his third year at Tennessee, LaMarcus Coker has been in and out of coach Phillip Fulmer’s doghouse.

But the preseason second-team All-SEC tailback’s suspension from the team Tuesday for unspecified transgressions took teammates — and apparently Coker himself — by surprise.

Fulmer met with a “remorseful” Coker to inform him of his indefinite suspension.

“He was very hurt today, very remorseful, very regretful and everything,” Fulmer said. “A lot of tears, a lot of things like that.”

Coker has been through it before. At Tennessee’s preseason media day Saturday, Coker said he was out of Fulmer’s doghouse and that to stay out, he needed to “go to class” and “stay out of trouble.”

His stint on Fulmer’s bad side dates back to last December, when despite being healthy, he was held out of UT’s final five practices in Knoxville before the Outback Bowl.

Fulmer did not specify why Coker missed those practices, and the reasons were just as vague this time.

“He has been working diligently to work with a medical situation, and we’ve worked with him through it, but that doesn’t excuse where we are at this point and what brought us to this point,” Fulmer said after reading a prepared statement. “I can’t really tell you what it is.”

When asked if he could elaborate on Coker’s medical condition, Fulmer said: “It goes back a ways. It’s just part of the whole scenario. Because of the laws — and his privacy — I can’t really comment on it. There’s more to it.”

UT quarterback Erik Ainge didn’t go into details either, but he did say he thought Coker had turned a corner this summer.

“I really thought, especially in the month of July, that LaMarcus had come around and was doing the right things,” Ainge said following practice. “Obviously, I don’t know (what Coker did), and I’m not entitled to say everything. He just needs to take care of his business. Obviously, he wasn’t.

“When I heard it this morning, I was like, ‘Whoa.’ We didn’t see it coming, but we’ve got to go from here. We can’t look back.”

Ainge and Fulmer each said the team will approach Coker’s absence as if it was an injury. The Vols are used to that, too.

Coker missed a pair of games with a knee injury last season, but still led the Vols in rushing yards with 696 yards on 108 carries. His five rushing touchdowns led the team as well.

Despite being voted second-team All-SEC by league media, Coker entered fall camp behind Arian Foster on the depth chart.

Without Coker on the practice field Tuesday and third-teamer Montario Hardesty limited with a minor hamstring injury, the Vols worked several newcomers at tailback.

It’s too early to know which ones could see more repetitions with Coker’s absence, but Foster says none approach Coker’s speed.

“It’s hard to find people across the country to match his speed,” Foster said. “As far as the reps go, we’re just all getting back in the groove. There’s no depth chart. It’s kind of just open.”

So is the door for Coker.

In a prepared statement, Fulmer said Coker can return to the team only after fulfilling “obligations to the program and to me.”

“He’s got to go through the process here,” Fulmer said. “I can’t tell you whether it’s going to be a week, two weeks, a month. I’m really not going to talk about it until I know more about the whole scenario.”

Fulmer, as well as Ainge, said they’ll be pulling for Coker to return and that despite his mistakes, he’s not a bad person.

“More than anything, I feel bad for our team; I feel bad for LaMarcus,” Ainge said. “LaMarcus is a good kid. I have a lot of good things to say about LaMarcus. He just needs to take care of his business. Some guys just don’t take care of business sometimes.

“Coach Fulmer’s done all he can. He’s done a great job trying to handle him. LaMarcus just needs to handle himself.”

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2007, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2007 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 75

Jagob38 writes:

The way I understood it was Fulmer just stated that Coker had worked hard with the staff to recover from a medical problem but that that work did not excuse the other issue that the suspension is for. In other words the two were not related. At least that is what I saw on channel 8 in Knoxville.

AllVol writes:

Incredible. Sounds like this kid just doesn't get it. Let's move on. Foster and Hardesty can take it. Let Creer run. Cokder doesn't get it.

doctorvol#211700 writes:

some people can't get out of their own way

cagntn writes:

Whatever the case may be it is good to see Fulmer show he still has some balls, let this send a message to the rest of the team "we are not putting up with any phooey this year or you are gone" hopefully this will spill over to the playing field

Bigger_Al writes:

2nd Team All-SEC, but not 1st Team UT says that LaMarcus is not fulfilling his potential.

LaMarcus must know that a starting TB at UT is going to make the NFL, and those that don't live up to expectations work like the rest of us (but have a lot more regrets!). I like the kid, and I'm hoping he matures and gets himself in order.

murrayvol writes:

This is an unfortunate turn of events. A solid running game is the key ingredient for our early season success (survival). Coker is the type back who will keep coordinators up at night. Foster and Hardesty will not. Creer? Maybe! If he can learn the system.

andy112382#209793 writes:

Hey, if the guys can't their their stuff straight off the field, I applaud a coach that will put his foot down and tell them they are suspended until they get it together. That sort of treatment will help him much more in life than giving him special treatment and letting his abilities on the field alone decide what you do. I really like Hardesty and Foster (as long as he doesn't fumble!) and we got a nice group of guys who can run very well, including the #1 RB from Texas (Creer) so I think we will be OK. But he wasn't booted, so if Coker actually takes care of stuff, we'll be OK then plus some with his presence. Either way, GO VOLS!!! Countdown is on!

vol4jesus writes:

thanks cagntn for your class language(suggest removal). We used to always say an individual proved his intelligence by his choice of words. I think they are wrong on you. You just slipped and forgot when posting. Lets all keep it clean and we can still make our points favorable or un favorable about coaches ,etc. Jrraymond go take a long siesta til your head clears. Again you are "foolmore" than we thought ewe were. Move on and see who will stand up and fill the gap for the VOLS!!!

bloodrunsorange writes:

He has the speed to get it done. Too bad we needed him. Ours is not some areas with 250 lbs TBs and 300 lbs FBs for 3.5 yards per carry. Speed is the name of the game down here. We can all guess the problem. I just hate to see another Banks. What a waste! I might be wrong, it won’t be the first time. I hope for him and the people who gave him multiple chances, he figures it out!

shoalcreekvol writes:

Why doesn't KNS post the prepared statement that CPF was reading from? Shouldn't be hard to do, just write it down and earn your money, or take the easy way and ask for a copy. Sounds like the writer is misrepresenting the medical condition part, but we won't know if they don't actually report what was said...

GreerVol22 writes:

Stupid is as stupid does. No room for thugalistic, self centered, doping, morons on any team. Chances are Coker is in several of those categories and Fulmer saw it back on (or off) the field in the past few days.

Neverlikedut writes:

So is this guy a hanging out with Pac-man or what?! Well don't worry Fulmer has a history of looking the other way. He'll be back in the line-up for the Cal. game. Fulmer would be a laughing stock if Cal returned the favor!

ZacharyUTK writes:

If you get suspended indefinitely, your scholarship needs to be taken away from you.

If you aren't earning it, you don't deserve to keep it.

If you get an academic scholarship, then flunk three of your classes, guess what? You lose that money.

If that's how the system worked, these players would start walkin' that line.

Coker, Coker, Coker... What a disappointment.

agentorange writes:

i could give a rat's ass what he did. we need him on day one. he may have just failed a a few dope tests. that's probably why we changed our policy a few days ago.

agentorange writes:

another possiblity is a diagnosed learning disability and he keeps getting bad grades. who knows. we need him, though. we had no running without him last year.

cwisenhower#637741 writes:

Maybe it's something serious. Give the guy a break. I know we all want to go for the throat everytime a player is involved in a suspension, but Fulmer saying that this situation is protected by a patient's medical rights makes me think that there is something much deeper here of which we all should be thinking.

SFOrange writes:

if its a medical problem why would he be suspended?
its got to be something else, suspensions typically are for behavioral issues not medical ones.

thevol writes:

Jwraymond, so quick to judge. If you are so smart why don't you share with the rest of us what Coker did and why Fulmer should take the swift action that you suggest? Maybe Coker IS a good guy like Ainge says and this isn't such a big deal but he needs to get his act together before it turns bad. Don't talk out of your ASS(sorry Vol4jesus but this is a football site). Get the facts first. Let's hope this kid gets his act together.

utvolgirl15 writes:

Hope Hines (CBS, channel 5) in Nashville indicated tonight that it was a 2nd failed test. It was for substance abuse. Marijuana was named in the broadcast.

Colliervol writes:

Like I said the other day. It should be two failed tests and gone. That's the only way to get these kids' attention. If one of the studs has to go to prove a point, so be it. Certainly, the new policy shouldn't be increasing the failed tests to four before dismissal. That's a joke.
P.S.- I guess this is why Foster was installed at first team so quickly. I thought that was a little strange when I saw it.

bsvolfan#325031 writes:

The new policy does not call for a permanent suspension until there are 4 failed tests. Remember with Wingate, it was 3. Now though, for the 2nd and 3rd violation, it is required that the player is suspended from practicing and playing with the team until he has completed outpatient counseling.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

It's a shame. But he still might be able to transfer to the University of Oregon Ducks. Or leave for the NFL early and maybe the Cincy Bengals will pick him up. Silver lining to every cloud.Go Big Orange

ODA751 writes:

I don't know all the facts but I like how Coach Fulmer approaches things. Each case is different and stands on its own merits. I like the fact that Coach Fulmer listens to the players and takes into account certain circumstances before making his decision. Most policies are guidlines. Those guidelines help you make good decisions. Life is not black and white. The young men on the UT football team are a work in progress and Coach Fulmer is not about to let them fail if he can guide them to a more productive life. Coach Fulmer is a good leader and mentor for the University. My hats off to him.

rootin4volz writes:

Some of you have not read the earlier posts, or did not see the local news which stated that the medical condition is a separate issue. Bottom line is that these kids have GOT to learn PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, which can go a long way in creating a championship caliber player. Trust me, I've seen it first hand...a few years ago I had James Banks in my class at UT, and I don't think I've ever seen a young man with such incredible talent as unbelievably immature as he was. He's lucky to be getting his fifth chance! I commend Fulmer on making the tough call in Coker's situation, WHATEVER it is. And he's right...it belongs within the confines of the team, and no place else.

wally writes:

Right on rootin4volz...couldn't agree more.

osunut2#223683 writes:

We all know that Fulmer won't keep one of his best players out of action for long, no matter what Coker did. If this was 4th-stringer Lennon Creer, I'd believe the indefinite suspension, but I don't see this lasting very long, knowing Fulmer's track record with "suspending" standout players.

spikevol writes:

the track record? Oh, you must mean Onterrio Smith, Lynn Gruder, Montrell Jones, James Banks.. yeah they all went on to have great careers as starters.... At other schools.

Stick with the facts people. Fulmer is nothing like Herban Meyer, or Mark Richt.

bean3669 writes:

jwraymond1 you are a goob dude. Fulmer has to take situations on a case by case basis, as do all coaches that have class. just go ask the kids in south carolina if the "wonderful" spurrier doesn't give them second chances. just remember these are still very young men who are barely 20 years old. ease up. GO VOLS.

spikevol writes:

Foster is getting his second chance, same as most kids at UT who make a mistake. If he blows that, you already know he's gone.

Same with Coker, he's on his second chance, but it's not as major so there MAY be a third chance, but it's going to take a lot of work on his part to prove the coaches and the team that he deserves to be on the field.

Case by case is exactly the right way to handle these kids. Everyone is different and you can't lump them all into one category and treat everything like a cancer. It might be a teaching opportunity for a kid with a troubled youth.

Coker's dad just went to prison, leaving his little brother in his care.... that's a lot for a kid to deal with while trying to compete for a job on a football team and trying to make sure he doesn't miss any classes. But, yeah, let's kick him out of school and give up on him entirely, because you think Spurrier would.

waterskier3#226480 writes:

well that's our running game.... who will step up?

rockytop#413695 writes:

Let's wait and see before we judge Coker or Fulmer. We don't even know what the kid did. Everyone is assuming it's drugs without any evidence. Sounds to me like he was given some assignments by coach to straighten some things out and hasn't completed those. You guys who are criticising Fulmer probably have never had children. I think Fulmer treats his players like his children. He's going to do everything he can to help get them straight. Only when that fails will he give up on them, ie., James Banks, Onterio Smith, Brent Schaffer, etc. He has kicked out a lot of very talented players who were given every opportunity to get straight. I respect his judgement. He know what's going on and we don't. Let's play football and let this run it's course. David Elam

thevol writes:

JW, quit while your behind. Spurrier is a really bad example. His hotshot quarterback recruit has been arrested twice this offseason BEFORE his freshman year and is back on the team. His starting quarterback was suspended for a bar fight(like your example- Foster) and was back on the team quickly. Spurrier was quoted as saying "that's what kids do". You listed the star players that Fulmer has kicked off UT. What are you talking about there? Sounds like you contradicted yourself. Let's just hope Coker gets his life together and becomes a solid member of society.

vol4jesus writes:

Thanks thevol...I forgot since it is a futbol site that we just get down in the pig slop and go sooooeee and curse like sailors cuz its alright thar. You don't want to run to far with itsa futbol site because if we use that thinking in some other ares troubles a coming. Why what happened to that girl? Oh some boys messed with ....but ya know boys will be boys. I guess that makes it alright then. Well back to the VOLS. Hope Lamarcus gets the picture loud and clear and straightens up. GO VOLS!!!

Vols37922 writes:

If you want to look at someone who doesn't punish their players, look at Urban Meyer. One of his players was recently arrested for shooting a semi-automatic weapon in the air in a crowded parking lot. What did that kid get? A 1-year suspension from the team. Geez. Meyer is the worst. That kid should've been given the boot for good. Meyer is just crooked. It wouldn't surprise me at all if 2 or 3 years down the road Florida is stripped of their '06 title for some type of infraction.

thevol writes:

It was a joke vol4jesus. It is o.k. to joke, right?

volchick202 writes:

One thing that i have learned about being a UT student and having a role in the athletic dept is to never believe what is written in the paper. The story that is being presented is not anywhere near what is really going on. Lamarcus is a good kid so the steroid accusations are definitely not true. his speed is a gift and i dont know why if an athlete is has an ability that most dont that he has to be on drugs. face it, the man is simply great at what he does. Dont Barry Bonds him because he is skilled. As most ut players, he makes mistakes, some bad decisions and he is reeping it. we will still have a great season.

knoxtenor writes:

We need to quit coddling these kids. Fulmer has gone out of his way to give this kid a break. (As to whether star players receive special treatment is a separate issue which I'm sure we could all wax rhapsodic about.) But Coker just can't seem to understand what's expected of him. He obviously needs help that the Vol athletic department can't provide. They need to find him someplace where he can self-correct, possibly off-team and off-campus. And maybe his scholarship could be better utilized by a walk-on up-and-comer.

fortandrews writes:

Who are the people who say "we need him" - hog wash, ony "cats" have nine lives , and Coker is not the only "cat" on the block. And WHY is always the black kids that get into trouble, send him to "Fort Memphis" they NEED him there.

knoxvol22#207389 writes:

Is it me or does vol4jesus always come across so condescending? Get a grip man...anyone who will have a username like that shouldn’t come across like a condescending, judgmental, sheltered man that is confined his own interpretation of religious righteousness. Little Christ...act like it. This is a football website. If you want to get on to someone for saying "having some balls", go to Church...or better yet stay at home.

gbrbossman#228379 writes:

I live in Atlanta. There is a local talk show with someone who has a "source" at UT. They said Coker has not been attending the mandatory rehab sessions he was supposed to. They did not elaborate as to if this meant rehab for injury or for substance abuse. Either case would be protected by privacy laws. Both would explain the medical condition Fulmer alluded to.

Coach_Joe writes:

If anyone is in counseling of any type that would be considered a medical treatment. Therefore, by law, they cannot give out information about the suspension.

This whole thing has me perplexed. I just don't understand why anyone who is getting a free education, free books, free meals (very good meals I might add), and free tutoring would piss it all away. Even if a person is given a second chance it follows them through their whole career.

vol4jesus writes:

thankee crvol fer the luv shon 2 me. I dun happy as a graduate of Tennessee to war the ornge prowdly and I du mean thatt. Bricker865 I be workin on my gramur for youins out there. Remember country folk be some of the best you will ever meet in your life cause they don't forget where they started frum. Humble folk ya know. We do luv them boys in ORNGE & WHYTE! GO VOLS!!!

tnvoloh#528914 writes:

Boy...Coach Sparks must be licking his chops...Banks and Coker on the same C-N squad...hmmm...

vol4jesus writes:

Tongue in cheek fellers. We all need to sit back and be thankful thats not our child,but he is somebodies and we need to pray for him that he learns the lesson while he still has a good opportunity available for him. Will Creer get an early look or wait like Jamaal Lewis til pass blocking assignments are understood and executed?

dfreeman writes:

Amazing, by jwraymonds comments Fulmer is to blame for everything these kids do!! He should be able to read minds and catch these kids before thought becomes reality!! Reality is Fulmer likes his kids and they like him! He tries to give them every opportunity to grow up and some of them don't! He's no different than any coach at any level! Meyer suspended reinstated and suspended and reinstated one of his defensive ends last year for KEY games over twice testing positive for Pot!! Some of these kids just never grow out of an environment they come from be it rich kids in bad environments or poor kids in even worse environments!! Fulmer isn't to blame for trying everything he can to get through to a young man and hopefully make a difference in their life! Look at some of the kids that were on good behavior while at UT and the trouble they have been in since! Couldn't Fulmer just as easily be responsible for those kids staying clean while at school?

vol4jesus writes:

Ahhhh..posters(some of you) are getting it now. The dorm supervisor must exhibit 100% control with no room for error or flexibility. So Coach Fulmer(correct spelling again) is the head coach and thus is the individual all hold accountable. For those who think that is a piece of cake as some have heard b4" try walking a mile in another mans shoes." Or how about don't throw rocks in a glass house. Or better yet , he who is without sin throw the first stone. In reality Coach Fulmer shouldn't be bashed for this or other players transgressions. Remember when the NCAA was forced to pull players from Gibbs because it was seen as better than the regular non-athlete received? The control factor decreased significantly then. So the coaches do the best the can in the circumstances they find themselves in. We think one is receiving favoritism and another not. Maybe, but remember the coach isn't perfect as we aren't. They do make mistakes, but usually with the best of intentions.

wyomingvol writes:

This happens at every D-I, D-II and D-III school in the country. It isn't an isolated TN incident.

The exact incident might change, but the story is nothing new or particular. Just a young kid who hopefully gets his head out of his arse.

I am happy seeing 1 article like this over the summer, not 10.

inquiry writes:

I heard it was pot relative to the Outback Bowl situation, has to be same thing. Kids at that age want their weed man, and that's all there is to it..They just don't like getting caught doing it. It's out of Fulmer's hands, yep, that's UT drug policy now talking and I think it's a fair process, it's going to be worse for him doing a real job later. Might as well address it now before he starts a further slide down the old Weed Highway.

wyomingvol writes:

I don't know, I think Lennon Creer's, Montario Hardesty's and Arian Foster's morale would have to be pretty high right now.

The players maybe are dissapointed, will their dissapointment translate into no more off the field transgressions? Probobly not. But, seems like a good bunch with way more good than bad apples, hopefully this will rub off on Lamarcus TOKER.

If I had a dime for all of the dumb stuff that I did when I was 20 or 21 I would be a rich man. There just wasn't a paper and millions of fans keeping track.

So, yeah, he needs a final chance to see if he can keep the rubber on the road.

invisiblekid writes:

I guess naming Foster the starter wasn't as difficult a decision as many of us thought. It sounds like a replay of the Major Wingate situation to me. Whether Coker was suspended for a failed drug test, missing rehab/counseling, or whatever, it seems unlikely he is going to play a role in the upcoming season. Given that he was the one proven "home run" threat on the roster, it can't be anything but a detriment to the team. Hope the coaches weren't paying lip service to some of the young guys contributing early on because I just don't see any of the returning players having that big-play potential.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features