|NFL draft another indicator of UT woes |
| Further indictment |
of Fulmer’s failures
There were 252 college football players selected in the annual National Football League Draft last weekend. Tennessee had exactly three players picked, the same number as Vanderbilt. Certainly, Jerod Mayo, Erik Ainge and big tight end Brad Cottam were worthy professional prospects. But what of the Volunteers that were not chosen, what does this say about Phil Fulmer’s ability to not only evaluate talent but also to develop those players to their full potential when they arrive on campus?
Check out this list. It might shock some of you; for others it is only further proof that the Big Orange football program has eroded significantly since their dominating 1998 and 1999 seasons.
Free safety Jonathan Hefney was a preseason All-American and on the watch list for best defensive backs in the nation this past autumn. But at 5-8 and with around 4.6 speed, the pro scouts were totally under-whelmed by his performances at the combines and on film. Hefney was not drafted.
Tight end/H-back/fullback Chris Brown caught 92 passes during a productive career at UT. He was a decent college player but obviously did not have much to offer the play-for-pay people. Very knowledgeable Internet football observers such pointed out that Brown was simply too slow to make it in the big leagues. He was also never mistaken for a dominating blocker.
Some of Fulmer’s main defenders claimed that linebacker Ryan Karl would go as high as the third round of this year’s draft. Karl was not taken. He is simply too slow to play strong safety and too small to line up at the point of attack as a linebacker in the league.
Despite the fact that senior offensive tackle Eric Young missed most of his senior year with an injury, many uninformed Vol fans still crowed that Young would be an early round selection. Not so, Young was another Volunteer who could not make it into the top 252.
A pair of senior defensive ends, Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds started for the biggest part of two seasons on a very shaky Tennessee defensive unit. Neither was ever much of a pass rusher and frankly, they weren’t that strong against the run either. The two combined for a modest 82 tackles and a miniscule five sacks during the 2007 campaign. Obviously, the NFL talent hunters didn’t have a very high opinion of their chances to grab a roster spot in professional football.
Ditto that same fickle evaluation for senior tackle Jonathan Mapu. After returning from a two-year Mormon mission, Mapu lacked the fire, strength and skills to catch the eye of an NFL talent tracker. Mapu might want to consider getting into coaching now.
Senior strong safety Jarod Parrish started the first game of the year as Fulmer continued his established pattern of seniority above talent, but Parrish was so bad that he was seldom even sighted after that game. Of course, he will get a free agent tryout, maybe in Canada or the Arena League.
Another senior defensive back, Roshaun Fellows, was booted off the team and may be selling insurance now in Warren, Ark. In a secondary that was as green as a fresh cucumber salad last year, Fellows could have been a stabilizing and capable presence. Instead, he continued a pattern of wasting chance after chance to get himself lined out to play football and obey the rules of the team and the university.
So, we report, you decide. Were these players not really big-time prospects when they were recruited by Fulmer? Or, were they as good as advertised but simply not developed, not coached-up to Southeastern Conference standards by Fulmer and his staff?
Most Tennessee fans that we know expect the team to capture two or three SEC crowns per decade and land in big money ECS bowl games at least that many times per every 10-year period.
The fast approaching football season will mark the 10-year anniversary of Fulmer’s last SEC crown and also the national champions from 1998 will be honored with a reunion at some point this fall. Players being recruited by Tennessee this year were in the first grade when the Vols were last the kings of the hill in the SEC.
A blue chip, big time, five-star football prospect wants to play for championships. He desires to shine in the spotlight of national television appearances and he wants to know how many kids that a particular program has recently sent into the National Football League.
Ten years ago, orange was in as the jersey color of choice by some of these high school superstar athletes.
But now, Florida blue, LSU purple and gold, Georgia red and black, Alabama crimson, Auburn navy blue and yes, even Arkansas’ dark red seem to be more in the vogue. Tennessee’s recruiting class was ranked behind all these schools, plus took a back seat to Ole Miss and South Carolina to boot.
The question at hand
Can new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson and an almost totally revamped staff on that side of the ball save Fulmer’s bacon?
Let’s all mull that one over and address it next week!