Strange: What happens next is up to players

The scoreboard hit zeroes. The horn sounded. It was over.

Spring practice, I mean. Within minutes, a stadium workman had stripped the big orange pad off the goal post and lugged it to a storage room where it will stay until August.

The Orange and White Game on Saturday brought the curtain down on a pivotal spring practice for Tennessee. As the crowd drifted out of Neyland Stadium, the coaches were already suffering coaching remorse.

"I wish this was one and we had 14 more to go,'' said new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

Only 14? Don't let your boss hear that.

"I'd like to have about 30 more days of spring practice,'' said UT coach Phillip Fulmer with tangible enthusiasm. "It's the best time.''

And now, for a coach, comes the worst time.

For fans, the countdown is on until the season-opener at UCLA on Sept. 1. For the coaches, however, the clock is ticking until early August, the first day of fall camp.

Until then, by NCAA decree, they have minimal contact with their players.

It will be nearly four months before Fulmer can again assemble his team on the practice field. And, make no mistake, for most coaches, the practice field is their favorite place. They absolutely revel in spring practice.

"Some of the guys are just starting to understand how to play the game,'' Fulmer said. "Now, it's over.''

A lot can happen between now and August, when the coaches regain control of their players' lives. Some of the possibilities make a coach pucker up.

What a football team does between spring and fall practice will say a lot about how it fares in the coming season. Fulmer and his staff met with the team on Friday to drive that point home.

"The leadership has got to be there,'' Fulmer said. "I told them I don't want any darn phone calls at two o'clock in the morning. About anything.''

Most of the players will stay on campus for summer school. They'll lift weights, go to class, work out informally on their own. Study videotape on their own.

On their own being the operative phrase.

"We're to the point now we know what must be done,'' said safety Demetrice Morley. "We don't need the coaches to tell us what to do all the time.''

They will at least have imposing figures like senior offensive lineman Anthony Parker telling them what to do. Parker, by now, knows the drill. And if he told me to lift weights at 6 a.m. I'd be there.

"You can either work extremely hard or you can get really lazy,'' Parker said. "It's a point where the older guys have to be leaders and encourage everybody to work hard.''

So off they go into this next phase. Parker signified the transition Saturday by getting his long hair cut off in the end zone after the game.

Teammate Arian Foster did the honors. It was Parker's first haircut, by his estimation, since before the eighth grade.

"I'd been thinking about it a couple of months,'' he said, tufts of his former locks scattered on the turf.

Thinking, perhaps, he'll be a little cooler through the hot months of lifting and running to come.

For now, there are recruiting trips for the coaches and fund-raising chores for Fulmer. Because of new NCAA legislation, head coaches can't go out recruiting during the month of May.

As much as he'd like to be on the road, Fulmer plans to turn the banishment into a positive.

"I made appointments with about 40 players,'' he said. "I'm going to look 'em in the eye.

"We'll have some heart-to-heart discussions.''

The importance of this particular spring and summer to Tennessee can't be overstated.

A familiar offensive system has been drastically overhauled by a new staff. Fifteen days of spring practice only go so far.

"There has to be carryover through the summer,'' Clawson said. "If we feel like we're starting from square one when we get to camp, we're in trouble.''

In the bigger picture, the 2008 season will be a reminder that it's been 10 years since the Vols last won an SEC title.

Fulmer described the spring as "fragmented.'' Besides the usual surgical rehab absences there were a couple of guys getting in trouble early, a few more missing practice later to attend to academic issues.

"When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

For the next few months, this team will be pulling on its own, with no coach to pound out the cadence.

As to whether it pulls in the same direction, we'll find that out in August.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or strange2@knews.com.

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Comments » 36

txvolsfan writes:

The summer is truly when Al Wilson and other leaders took their teams to another level!!!
CAN'T WAIT TILL UCLA
GOVOLS!!!!!

smashmouth98 writes:

let's stay out of trouble and keep building towards a great year!!

Bigger_Al writes:

No telling what "Tuscaloosa John" Adams might write so that he can get a check from Bama Radio, but now is the time to get excited about next season!

utclassof1992 writes:

I love you John Adams. Better an honest journalist than a homer cheerleader. I may not always agree with him, but I do respect him. He was dead on about Fulmer.

utclassof1992 writes:

John Adams is one of the best writers in the Southeast. We are lucky to have him. During the good or during the bad, he is not afraid to tell the truth.

rockytop47 writes:

You guys are stupid! That was Mike Strange! Hello!

hcjournals#206623 writes:

DCSO-

Your tone is not warranted. Chill out. The glass is half full. Go coach the YMCA team, then come back and tell us about how easy it is to coach...................

khelton657 writes:

So far our team leadership appears headed in the opposite direction as UCLA's..thank goodness ....gotta love a team mutiny

DSaVol writes:

FOOLmer quote of April 19: "When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

FOOLmer quote of Sept. 2: "When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

FOOLmer quote of Sept 21: "When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

FOOLmer quote of Sept 28: "When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

FOOLmer quote of Oct 12: "When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

FOOLmer quote of Oct 26: "When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

FOOLmer quote of Nov 2: "When we get everybody healthy and pulling in the same direction, we can have a darn good team,'' Fulmer said. "We really can.''

FOOLmer quote of DECEMBER 24, 2005: "It was kind of like the Perfect Storm,"

History in the RE-making!

DSaVol writes:

Hey General - get a clue man - UCLA has TWO QBs who've BOTH started games the last 2 years. They are not "breaking in a new QB!" Chow is going to embarrass Chavis and on Sept. 2 all the blind loyalists will be asking "Why didn't we go get Chow?"

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Doldrums have settled over the land. Soon "ten years" type comments from Strange will be forgotten.

Orange koolaid will ferment quietly over the summer and then, the big "We're # 1 " foam fingers will reappear. Koolaid will boil.

Sept 1 will tell us if we're staying the course and working like heck.

Or for yet another "next year"..........

DSaVol writes:

3,422 DAYS SINCE TN's LAST SEC FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP. 'NUFF SAID.

ThurmondEppy writes:

DSaVol- Just go away.

hueypilot writes:

DSaVol!!! You're back. Still want that guy from out West somewhere? ASU or Arizona wasn't it? Is he even still in football?

utclassof1992 writes:

DsA, while I don't think the sky has fallen yet, you quote Fulmer very well.

KnoxVox writes:

Isn't this the same bunch that said Fulmer would never win the east last year?
Don't give much creedence to haters!

FWBVol writes:

FYI, the UCLA team mutiny occured last week. Apparently there is a longtime tradition at UCLA that all the players "go over the wall" one practice during the spring taking a cut day. Nuehuesel (spelling), who was part of the tradition in his day witht he Bruins, asked the players not to do it this year because they are learning a new system. The players didn't respect his wishes and went AWOL. I guess they don't care as much about football as the Vols.

cjraney writes:

DCSO-
I haven't read an Adams article since "the article." Just can't support a "journalist" who engages in half-truths, cherry-picking facts, and speculation presented as factual. Its amazing how much better I feel & I recommend this therapy to all Vol fans.

KHB-whaddya think buddy?

stroker writes:

You go cjraney
DCSOvol You cannot suport VOl FB and Adams. He went on enemy radio sports talk and trashed the VOls. It will be used against the Vols in recruiting. Vols and Adams an oxymoron.

givehim6 writes:

I remermber in '06 the team used the time off for summer looking at Cal. tapes studying for how to beat Cal. '07 vols just spent the summer how ever. We all know the way there first games turned out. Vols do not be lazy, ok. GO VOLS!

utclassof1992 writes:

No, John just had the courage to speak his mind. While I may not agree with his antics in Alabama, I respect anyone who will stand by what he writes, no matter the pressure he receives. That is referred to in other circles as integrity.

wjackson#226202 writes:

You had to know DCSOvol was going to back John. He is in love with him. His own words. Hmmm. Something we should all know????

THE_VOL writes:

And the kool-aid flows......

cjraney writes:

Kool-aid river take my mind.....(apologies to Willie)

Ralph_Crampton writes:

The game with UCLA on September 6th, will be the VOLS , I Count 12th time to play in California. For some reason the VOLUNTEERS have only won two games...count them...only two games. The VOLS appear to play like they have that deer-look in the headlights, each time. It appears they are intimidated in La-La-land. The local sports media seem to pick up on that and show little respect, thus the local crowd are not that enthused and relatively small crowds show up to see the VOLS in action. And as the local sportswriter for KNS, TOM SILER, once complained that the Los Angeles media virtually ignored The VOLS, as there was not one word in Media about the Tennessee-Bruins game the day before the game. C'mon VOLS, pay them back for not respecting your team...AS "BEAR" Bryant was quoted as saying, " you win games by out-conditioning your opponents." YOU HAVE THE SUMMER TO GET READY. Let your goal be to win the UCLA game. As Coach Bryant once said, " We should win if we can keep our minds off Hollywood." Hollywood is a myth..you are not going to see any stars.

volguy40 writes:

bigfan502...just for your info...on Sept 6th...you will be watching reruns.....the game has been moved to 9/01/2008...go vols and FLUCK FORIDA

utclassof1992 writes:

No, I just refuse to give in to the weenies who bash Adams for speaking his mind. Also, I don't think Adams went after Fulmer without some gas in the tank. I think he, in his own perspective, has had enough of Fulmer, and is willing to say so. Being the editor of the KNS, he knew he was taking a big risk, and I don't think he did it lightly.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

sjt18 -has the reason Tenn has not won the SEC in nearly 10 years laid at Adams' feet or the beloved Fulmer?

Just curious.......

Colliervol writes:

"Norm Chow will embarrass Chavis." You mean sort of like he embarrassed all those NFL defenses during his tenure with the Titans? Yep, he's another Bill Walsh for sure. Personally, I haven't seen anything special out of Chow since he left all that talent at Southern Cal.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

This upcoming season should be named " THE RODNEY DANGERFIELD TEAM, especially when they play in California...THEY GET NO RESPECT.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Colliervillevol 9:00am - true, the little I watched the Titans, it was possibly the worst offense I had seen in pro football.

We can hope he doesn't readjust too quickly to the college game again. There was a rumour that Vince Young couldn't grasp anything he tried to teach. Who knows!

cjraney writes:

DCSO-
So when Adams speaks his mind about Fulmer its called "integrity" but when Vol fans speak their mind about Adams they're "weenies?"

pdhuff#552644 writes:

sjt18-2:54 am -fairly said.

Also it should be the "DT's" we wish we could talk about, that is the ones we don't have. And any "job security" issues CPF may have had or does have can be answered by him simply looking in the mirror. $38,000.00 per week can do that to one.

Enjoy the doldrums and don't work too hard.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Gen F - 6:46pm- It is unfair to invoke the "liking the Fritter rule" in making a point.

There is simply no logical retort.

Game and match!

We must all bow to the King of the Glazed.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Please boys, cut down on the critical remarks about the KNS writers..its only hurting the VOLS. It could put a bad taste in the mouth of future VOL recruits...All coaches will tell you that you win with the best talent. Even the "BEAR" once said, " its funny the better players I have the better coach I become.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Gen F - Bear Bryant and Fulmer should not even be in the same sentence.

Per your keen insight big Phil will hoist the Grail. UCLA should tremble at his coming.

How many gallons of koolaid has Dupree turned out so far?

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