Coker's UT career is over

Drug problems led to tailback's dismissal


Photo by Saul Young


LaMarcus Coker's dynamic and often troubled career at Tennessee is over.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer dismissed the sophomore tailback from the team Friday, two days after he announced Coker's third suspension in less than a year.

A source told the News Sentinel that if Coker were dismissed Friday, it would be because he failed a drug test.

Under Tennessee's revamped drug policy, a player is immediately dismissed following a fourth positive test for marijuana.

"I felt like he wasn't doing what he needed to do, and we needed to go on about our business as a football team," Fulmer said following a walk-through Friday in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. "I do wish him well. I'm really disappointed for him, for our football team to a degree, but most of all because it's his life. I hope he gets straightened out and does really well at whatever he chooses to do."

On Wednesday, Coker was suspended for today's 4 p.m. homecoming game against Louisiana-Lafayette after missing counseling sessions he intermittently attended following an August suspension.

A source told the News Sentinel in August that Coker's suspension came following a positive test for marijuana.

A source also said that Fulmer's decision to dismiss Coker came after Fulmer met with those involved in Coker's counseling and before results of Coker's drug test were known.

Coker was suspended for five practices last December leading up to the Outback Bowl, although he scored the Vols' only touchdown against Penn State in that game on a 42-yard touchdown run.

Coker, who led the Vols in rushing last season, ranks fourth in the SEC on kickoff returns and is the Vols' second leading rusher behind starter Arian Foster.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Coker recorded two of Tennessee's four longest runs in school history last season.

Coker could not be reached for comment Friday, and his stepfather, Johnny Duncan, declined comment on behalf of the family when reached at his home Friday afternoon in Antioch, Tenn.

Coker's former coach at Antioch High School, Thomas McPhail, said Coker was one of the most well-liked players on his high school team.

McPhail also said he first learned of Coker's issues with marijuana through media reports.

"One-on-one, he's probably one of the most likeable kids," said McPhail, now an assistant coach at Father Ryan. "He seemed to focused on playing college football. The things going on now, I'm disappointed in his decision making."

So was Fulmer, who made the decision to dismiss Coker after talking to the tailback and several of those involved in his treatment on Friday.

"I can lay my head on my pillow and know that we, within the rules, have done everything we can possibly do for LaMarcus to overcome his challenges," Fulmer said. "I take that very seriously when I sit in a living room with a family, particularly a mother. I've talked to his mother. They were all very appreciative of everything, as is LaMarcus.

"I have regrets that he screwed it up."

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

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Comments » 132

volfaninky writes:

Coker made his choice despite the best efforts of the school and staff and despite the meaningless opions that will follow, he'll be the one that has to deal with the consequences. He's not the first athlete at any school this has happened to and he certainly won't be the last.

Volunatic writes:

What a waste. He had a great shot at making the NFL, and now... well there's always the University of Oregon. I guess he'll do fine, after all.

bshell12 writes:

glad to see fulmer do the right thing. Tennessee is better off with out him. Time for Foster, Hardesty, and Creer to step up...I knew that sooner or later one of foster, hardesty or coker i just didnt think it would be because of drugs

cwarden2448#282638 writes:

Damn shame to see a kid with his talent piss it away on stupid decisions. Good on Fulmer and Co for getting rid of him before he poisons the rest of the team. I would rather see them lose every game than have a bunch of dope heads on the field.

Good Luck to Hardesty and Creer...Here's your chance.

BornaVolDieaVol writes:

Legalize it... Don't criticize it.

JohnyLobo34 writes:

He had to go. Foster & Hardesty will carry the load fine. Lennon Creer & Tauren Poole are a couple of speedy backs for the future. Think his mother is concerned about playing time now? Now all we had to do is get Kenny O'Neil's speed on the field. Fulmer, Chavis & Cut are too parochial; they need to simplify things and let these athleste play. Va Tech did it on defense and they're tough as nails.

volfan1511 writes:

Coker has had his chances so the team just has to move forward in a positive way. I believe he got kicked off for a fourth failed drug test and if that is the case then he should've been gone 2 times ago.

bigbluevol writes:

phooey. Well, good luck LaMarcus. I hope you can get your life in order. Don't let this lead you down a worse path.

CoverOrange writes:

Maybe Fulmer can employ James Banks at the beginning of each season to counsel all the athletes on what not to do. Keep playing the "stupid I is" game, eventually you will lose.

Won't end it sjt, debate will be over "why 4 chances?"

BornaVolDieaVol writes:

"I hope you can get your life in order." Man, the life of every smoker in the world is in shambles. Football ain't life, and as long as the dude still gets a degree somewhere, or even if he doesn't, he can still lead a normal, good life.

Oenoboy writes:

That's very sad news for him. He was given every chance in the world and blew it. It kills me when these young men can't see the obvious path in front of them. For him and his family's sake, I hope he pulls it together, finds a spot on another team, and makes his run at the NFL.

Good luck LaMarcus.

volntx writes:

BornaVolDieaVol writes:

It kills me when the government can't see the obvious path in front of it... Legalize it, don't criticize it. Everyone, enjoy buying a 12 pack before the game tomorrow, and realize that's worse than putting one in the air.

spikevol writes:

Herban Meyer is on the phone with Coker already. He needs runningbacks.

CoverOrange writes:

Next question: What about Bolden? drugs? grades? curfew? Took his roommates car? Oh wait, that isn't a punishable offense.

Oenoboy writes:

That's hilarious volntx.

TrueVolFan writes:

I hate it for LaMarcus to be losing such an incredible opportunity, but he can't say he wasn't given more than his share of chances. Thanks Phil for showing the doubters that you DO still believe in discipline, but the extreme only comes after ALL OTHER options to help these young men have been exhausted. Go VOLS!!!

MillisaAnn writes:

I agree with Oenoboy, what a shame. He has my prayers.

flstf writes:

Sad. Volcr jump up yourself. The University sets the drug policy. Just as Pearl, Summit and the rest of the Coaches Fulmer has to abide by the Universities policy. How hard is that to understand?

GreerVol22 writes:

"he's a joker, he's a smoker, he's a midnight he's got no where to run"

I wunder if some of these liberal well wishers will give you a job sweepin' up?


I hate that Coker had to go and that all this had to happen, but I'm so glad we can finally get passed this and move on with the season. I just hope Coker can straighten his life out quickly and that it doesn't take something even worse to wake him up.

bigtimevol writes:

Totally agree with JohnnyLobo34. We have the talent. Simplify and get the players on the field. Everyone else manages to do this. I hate it when we always say the tailbacks don't know all the pass blocking schemes. Granted, this is important. But, the ONLY way we are going to win-out is to run the ball and keep our defense OFF the field. Next year we'll be in better shape on D. But, this year, with our young D, keeping them on the field w/ quick offensive possessions (by passing so much), it's like tieing their hands and feet together, pushing them in the deep end of a pool and asking them why they drowned. Run the ball, conserve our defense, and MAYBE we'll have enough steam to stop someone in the second half of a game.

Oenoboy writes:

Before you guys go attacking VolCR. Fulmer had no choice in this but follow the rules. I also agree with VolCr that it is suspect that the coaches would not be informed the first time he missed on of his sessions.

I don't agree with VolCR that Phil is overly soft any more than the next coach or that there is a conspiracy by any means, it just reeks (no pun intended) of some oversight.

bigbluevol writes:

Born, all I'm saying is that he obviously has a problem. Regardless of your views on marijuana, the rules were clear. He knew what was at stake and he couldn't quit. I hope that instead of going down a really bad path, he can address his issues and move forward.

As for Fulmer, he followed the policy administered by the Athletic Department. He wasn't going to dismiss him yesterday before the test came back. A part of him was surely hoping that LaMarcus had turned the corner.

bigbluevol writes:

He didn't play a lot in the Outback Bowl. He had our touchdown, he had a couple of other carries and that was it. It's not Fulmer's fault the policy was changed. He's kicked players off the team for less than this. He treats each player as an individual and that's not necessarily a bad thing.


Marijuana is illegal. It's ridiculous to discuss views on it. It's illegal to possess it, smoke it, sell it, etc. Nothing else needs to be said about it. I just hope Coker can get past this.

Bolden is suspended because of academics. Not sure if it's grades, skipping class, study hall or what. All I know is academics.

DadwasaVol writes:

If George Bush can overcome cocaine, infidelity, and alcohol like he did then there is, indeed, hope for Lamarcus. Good luck, young man.

letshave1more writes:

Stupid Is As Stupid Does.

Join Banks at Carson Newman!

What a waste............

BUTCHug_JONES writes:

Speakin of ol' Kenny Chesney. Why is he still alive? He sinned bad guys.

volbeck writes:

Theoretical phone call from lamarcus coker to james banks

hey man can i borrow your whizzinator?

yeah but it didnt work for me and i wouldnt bring it on an airplane.

tenndave writes:

Remember it is not addictive. Athletes just want to self destruct and throw away opportunity for big salaries. Yeah Yeah that has to be it. He could have quit.

eschroeder#627726 writes:

This kid just gave up a free college education, or at least a degree, and quite probably his chance at an NFL contract. Anything that can become that much of a priority in your life is exactly why it should never be legalized.

And I say that having done my share of it in high school and college.

Tellicovol writes:

I sure hate to see Coker leave, this will have a negative efect on the football team. I don't think we can blame anyone but Lamarcus for the trouble he's in. As much as I like the Vols I am more concerned about the path Larmarcus has chosen for himself. I'm not concerned because we lost a good player we can replace good players but I am concerned that the road coker has chosen will take him farther than he wants to go and will keep him longer than he wants to stay. I know my source too well. I pray that he will turn it around because there is more to life than football.

volbeck writes:

sounds like eschroeder is in favor of prohibition also

TommyJack writes:

It's socially addictive...Even idiots like BORNaVOL will probably wise up in the future...of course he won't remember any of this...But he's cool, he's worse than beer, yada yada yada

bdub77 writes:

The herb helped to slow the game down for him.

utvolz#637682 writes:

Too bad for Coker but glad to see CPF (and the Athletic Dept) do the right thing and show him the door. Such a waste of talent! GO VOLS!

Frank in Miami

mtnvol writes:

The athletic dept’s policy is what it is. Don’t hate on the coaches for following it. BTW, we as fans DON’T have a right to know when student/athletes violate a policy for the first time. They have rights as well.

Be that as it may, individuals lucky enough to be chosen by a D1 school should care enough for their own health and future to make good choices. I wish LeMarcus well and hopes he finds his place in the world.

Oenoboy writes:

I think UT should seek immunity to the substance abuse rules since our unofficial fight song has two verses dedicated to an illegal substance. Our offense would have to go back to the huddle for inspiration and the water boy would be the busiest person on the field but think about the recruiting potential.

Oenoboy writes:

Wow, one strike your out. That's pretty harsh (once again, no pun intended). Let's see, error free players, error free coaching, error free performances...sorry, that just isn't realistic. This is not the military, it's college.

BornaVolDieaVol writes:

Get Drunk, Get High, see how someone performs behind the wheel each time, then get back to me.


I prefer not to see either one.

Basketball_Jones writes:

One thing no one is approaching is where were his teammates? Does he not run with anyone on the team? I know in my line of work we are always told to have a wingman with us when were out partying or doing whatever, basically someone there so the old" 2 heads are better than 1" thing kicks in. Did any of his teammates know he was dating Mary Jane? I'm not saying be a snitch but at least talk the man out of toking the bud!

Oenoboy writes:

Get drunk, get high and get behind a wheel? Your not doing a bang up job selling your point there bornavol. Maybe suggest something less dangerous to others?

volbeck writes:

thats what limos are for bvdv

Oenoboy writes:

I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if every Div-I team drug tested every player say like tomorrow. I bet it would change the landscape for this weekend more than we could imagine.

BornaVolDieaVol writes:

33% would fail if they tested them all tomorrow

Volunatic writes:

Well, beer is "socially addictive" too. The biggest difference is that beer is legal. Smoking more isn't going to change that.
DUMB DUMB DUMB move by LaMarcus. He was a few good games away from NFL millions. (Which could have bought a lot of whatever he wanted. Just ask Michael Irvin.)
Thanks for that kickoff return last Saturday, though!

BornaVolDieaVol writes:

College Football needs Major League Baseball's heads-up drug test plan... you hear about MLB teams getting tipped off before each test this week?

AlpharettaVol writes:

It rained in Knoxville last week, must have been Fulmer's fault. It was sunny the week before, must have been Fulmer's fault. Hillary may be elected President. Surely it is a conspiracy spearheaded by Fulmer. Use some common sense, folks. He's made enough bad decisions lately that we don't have to blame him for everything else that has gone wrong.

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