Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer, who attended a Volunteers practice last week at the request of current coach Butch Jones, believes the program's brick-by-brick building process will require a lot of patience and bricks.
"It's going to take time," Fulmer said Monday. "When you go through three coaches in four or five years -- Butch has got lots of challenges."
Fulmer gave two chapel addresses at Baylor, which is gearing for Friday night's rivalry game with visiting McCallie. Baylor basketball coach Austin Clark introduced Fulmer and said he had not seen the chapel so packed since Billy Graham spoke at its dedication in 1994.
Between talks to the upper and lower schools, Fulmer said each of the last three Tennessee football coaches has invited him back to practice but that he felt this time was right.
"Butch is a guy I've come to really appreciate and respect," he said. "I think it was good for me, and I think it was good for the university. It was certainly good for my family, and all it was about was to be there to support."
Fulmer went 152-52 as Tennessee's coach, winning two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship, but he was fired late in the 2008 season when the Vols were on their way to a 5-7 record. Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Jones are a combined 26-29 since Fulmer's ousting.
Jones is 3-2 in his first season but faces Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama this month.
"Georgia is a really, really fine football team," Fulmer said. "Hopefully we'll keep it close and in the fourth quarter make a play that wins the ballgame, but it's going to be a challenge."
When asked about Southern California firing Kiffin early Sunday morning, Fulmer said, "It's a big business, and I'm sure there was some frustration there."
Fulmer believes Tennessee is more fundamentally sound this year but doesn't have near the offensive talent as in 2012 following the early departures of quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. He said Jones has a good recruiting class in the works and it's just a matter of continuing to build the foundation.
The Vols have lost three straight to Georgia and nine of the last 13 meetings, but Fulmer's teams beat the Bulldogs eight consecutive times starting in 1992. And he won three of his last five Georgia games.
"We had a great staff and a great group of players, that's for sure," Fulmer said. "We coached them hard, and we won a lot of games. We had a lot of streaks, and when you have streaks over Alabama and streaks over Georgia, it's a big deal.
"That would be part of the history, I guess, of what we were able to accomplish."
Fulmer said it
During his speech to the students, Fulmer said the 1994 team was his favorite because it won seven of its last eight games and laid the foundation for the best modern era in Tennessee football. ... When asked about Tennessee's new uniforms this week, Fulmer said, "If it gets a win, we may be in gray from now on." ... Fulmer said Peyton Manning is at the "absolute top of his game" and that the Broncos have a good defense that gets him the ball back more. ... Fulmer told the students to keep watching "The Blind Side" because "those residuals are great."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...