Tennessee had only one player taken in this year's NFL draft. And safety Eric Berry might be its only preseason first-team All-SEC pick when the votes are tabulated at the SEC football media days in Birmingham, Ala., in two weeks.
But that's not how UT fans will always remember the Phillip Fulmer coaching era. They also will remember it for all the talented players who passed through here on the way to the NFL.
If you really want to appreciate the talent assembled under Fulmer in his 16-year run as UT's head coach, try picking the best players at each position during his era. Many of those players excelled in the NFL as well as the SEC.
I'll give you one hint about my All-Fulmer team. The quarterback is still playing professionally, and he's not Erik Ainge.
If you really want to appreciate the talent assembled under Fulmer in his 16-year run as UT's head coach, try picking the best players at each position during his era.
Some of the picks are almost as obvious as the quarterback. For example, a certain middle linebacker on the 1998 national championship team comes to mind.
In selecting the team, it reminded me how much better Fulmer recruited in the 1990s. It's also noteworthy how much he upgraded UT's defense.
Never mind that Fulmer was an offensive guard at UT and coached on the offensive side of the ball throughout his career. He made defense a priority in building UT's national championship team.
In Fulmer's first three seasons as head coach - from 1993 through 1995 - only one defensive player, cornerback DeRon Jenkins, made first-team All-SEC. In his next three years as head coach, nine Vols made first-team defense.
That was the beginning of a trend. In Fulmer's last 10 years - from 1999 through 2008 - 20 defensive players made first-team All-SEC, compared to 11 on offense.
That's a testament to defensive coordinator John Chavis as well as Fulmer. Chavis, who is now the defensive coordinator at LSU, also was successful in developing linebackers at UT. His hit list includes first-round NFL draft picks Al Wilson and Jerod Mayo,
The decline on offense had more to do with the drop-off that led to Fulmer's firing last season. In the 1990s, three of his quarterbacks - Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning and Tee Martin - made first-team All-SEC. Martin, in 1999, was his last quarterback to make All-SEC.
The caliber of running backs was even more indicative of UT's slide.
In Fulmer's first nine seasons as UT's head coach, the running backs included a slew of future NFL players like Charlie Garner, Aaron Hayden, James Stewart, Jay Graham, Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry.
Garner rushed for more than 7,000 yards and had 91 pass receptions in a single season during his NFL career. Stewart rushed for almost 6,000 yards and twice had 1,000-plus yards rushing in an NFL season. Henry rushed for more than 6,000. Lewis has rushed for more than 10,000 yards and almost broke the NFL single-season rushing record in 2003 when he gained 2,066 yards.
UT hasn't had those kind of running backs in the last seven years. Travis Stephens, in 2001, was the last Vols running back to make first-team All-SEC.
When you review the Fulmer era, you see a number of good players at almost every position. But in most cases, it's not that difficult to pick the best of the best.
QB - Peyton Manning: He's on the short list for best NFL quarterback - ever.
RB - Jamal Lewis: Dominant as a true freshman once he finally got a chance (post-Florida), then almost broke Eric Dickerson's single-season NFL rushing record with the Ravens.
RB - Travis Henry: UT's all-time leading rusher, he later became a Pro Bowl running back with the Buffalo Bills.
FB - Shawn Bryson: Amidst all of the big plays of the national championship season, don't forget his touchdown run against the Gators.
WR - Joey Kent: UT's leader in career pass receptions, and Manning's go-to guy.
WR - Peerless Price: He made one big catch after another in UT's national championship season.
TE - Jason Witten: Under utilized as a Vol, he has become a star with the Dallas Cowboys.
T - Arron Sears: Named the SEC's outstanding blocker in 2006, he became a starter with the Tampa Bay Bucs in the first game of his rookie season.
T - Chad Clifton: A two-time All-SEC pick, he has been a fixture in the Green Bay Packers offensive line since his rookie season.
G - Cosey Coleman: Another two-time All-SEC pick, he started 92 games in the NFL.
G - Fred Weary: An All-SEC guard at UT, he became a starter as a rookie with the Houston Texans.
C - Scott Wells: A four-year starter at UT, he has started the last three years for the Green Bay Packers.
PK - Jeff Hall: Another four-year starter, he excelled when it mattered most during UT's national championship season.
E - Leonard Little: Although he played linebacker as a senior, he has been at his best as a pass-rushing end, first at UT and later in the NFL.
E - Shaun Ellis: A first-team All-SEC pick in 1999, he has been a longtime starter with the New York Jets.
T - John Henderson: He won the Outland Trophy at UT and is a two-time Pro Bowler with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
T - Darwin Walker: Although Albert Haynesworth might be the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL, Walker - a twotime All-SEC player - was more productive at UT.
LB - Al Wilson: The star and leader of the 1998 national championship team, he was a five-time Pro Bowler with the Denver Broncos.
LB - Jerod Mayo: An All-SEC player at UT, he was the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 2008.
LB - Raynoch Thompson: A UT All-American in 1999, he played five years in the NFL.
CB - Terry Fair: A two-time All-SEC pick at UT, he played six years in the NFL.
CB - Dwayne Goodrich: A three-year starter at UT, his interception return for a touchdown was one of the biggest plays of the national championship game against Florida State.
S - Deon Grant: A consensus All-American in 1999, he has played nine seasons in the NFL.
S - Eric Berry: A first-team All-American last year as a sophomore, he's already regarded as one of the best players in UT history.
P - Dustin Colquitt: UT's punter from 2001 through 2004, he made All-American in 2003.