John Chavis: Eric Berry is the best DB in the country
Eric Berry says the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games will be a tribute to head coach, Phillip Fulmer, with players giving 110% on the field. Watch »
Coach Chavis talks about the Vanderbilt coaching staff, specifically head coach, Bobby Johnson. Watch »
Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer maintains he's only thinking about the short-term future, even though he keeps getting asked about his long-term plans.
"That right now is not my concern," Fulmer said Tuesday when asked about what he'll do after stepping down following this season. "My concerns are these two ball games, this football team and getting this team ready to play our best and win these last two games."
Still, the question persisted from during his weekly press conference: Will he coach again?
"If a great opportunity came about that I really felt good about, certainly I would look at that," Fulmer said.
Fulmer declined to describe exactly what a "great opportunity" might mean.
He said he's sought consultation from other former coaches, including UT's Doug Dickey and Bill Battle and Michigan's Lloyd Carr.
"They all encourage you 'Don't do anything too fast,' " Fulmer said.
Or out of anger.
"I'm not bitter; I'm not going to do that," Fulmer said.
Then Fulmer seemed genuinely conflicted.
"The fire still burns real deep to coach," he said. "But at the same time, my family has paid a dear price for a long time.
"I've used the phrase 'Coaching is what I do. It's not who I am.' I think there are a lot of things I can do. I'm going to take some time and reflect and try to figure that out."
That could come long after UT's 2008 season has concluded - and quite possibly in a secluded locale.
"Then," Fulmer said, "you're going to have to really look for me."
Arian's Ailment: Fulmer said once again he's surprised by the time it has taken tailback Arian Foster to return from a bruised quadriceps.
"I'm really surprised that his leg hasn't responded better," Fulmer said.
Foster was extremely limited in practice the week before the Wyoming game, did not play against the Cowboys, then did not practice last week during UT's off week - essentially giving the senior two weeks off.
Fulmer seemed doubtful that Foster would play Saturday against Vanderbilt.
"It's still really ugly and bruised," Fulmer said. "I would have thought it (the leg) would have been past that. Maybe he will be better at the end of the week."
Foster's flexibility and pain tolerance will determine whether or not he can play.
"I don't think there's any risk of further injury," Fulmer said. "The stiffness hasn't gone away."
The injury and UT's disappointing season have taken their toll on Foster's legacy. By not starting against Wyoming, Foster's bid to set the Fulmer-era record for most consecutive starts by a tailback was dashed.
With just two games left, Foster is also 226 yards shy of becoming UT's all-time leading rusher.
Needing only 684 yards before the season, Foster was considered a lock to reach that milestone. Averaging only 68 yards per game this season, it seems unlikely he'll break Travis Henry's record of 3,078 yards.
Injury Report: Defensive coordinator John Chavis said middle linebacker Ellix Wilson shouldn't have played in the loss to Wyoming. Wilson has been battling various injuries for weeks.
"Watching him on film in the last game, we probably did him an injustice," Chavis said of the senior. "We probably should not have played him. There was nothing in the tank but he was still going."
Chavis said the week off has helped Wilson.
"His legs are a lot better right now," Chavis said. "He'll be a lot better."
Chavis said he's looking forward to sophomore Chris Walker returning from a back injury because he can bring more speed to the defensive end position.
The week off won't be as beneficial for junior defensive end Wes Brown, who has been dealing with a sore knee all season.
"It did help him some but the knee is going to continue to bother him," defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell. "He's fresh but I don't think there's a whole lot of difference in the knee."
Caldwell said Brown can usually return to a game in which he tweaks the knee, whereas Walker is usually out for the remainder of the game if he aggravates his sore back.
UT is expecting defensive tackles Dan Williams (ankle) and Walter Fisher (toe) to be much healthier.
"We were in a situation where either myself or coach (Dan) Brooks were going to have to take a couple of snaps at defensive tackle," Chavis joked. "I didn't want to get the school in trouble because both of us have used our eligibility."
Getaway: Fulmer said it seemed UT’s players and coaches heeded his advice to get away from football during the off-week and come back refreshed. Fulmer and several others commented on how spirited Sunday’s practice was.
That, however, doesn’t mean his team is emotionally healed from a trying season.
“I don’t think you just get over in a weekend all that we’ve been through,” Fulmer said. “It’s been a great challenge for everybody, particularly the timing of everything.”
Fulmer said he spent the weekend in the mountains with family.
“That was good to do that, but I ended up watching football – a lot of it,” Fulmer said.
Chief Chat: Chavis was hesitant to share more of his thoughts of Fulmer’s forced resignation on Tuesday, but eventually relented when queried by an out of town reporter.
“I really don’t want to revisit that but to say that things haven’t changed would not be the truth,” Chavis said. “It’s changed dramatically.
“You look at what our young people went through trying to prepare for a game two weeks ago and what they’re still going through, that’s just part of it.”