Phillip Fulmer: 'Surely we can get to six or seven wins'

Phillip Fulmer: 'Surely we can get to six or seven wins'

August 25th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sportscollege

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer is hopeful for better days to come for the Vols.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Phillip Fulmer has not coached the University of Tennessee football program since 2008, but he is anything but retired.

Fulmer works at BPV Capital Management, of which he is a founding partner, and he is a consultant with the football rebirth at East Tennessee State. He will embark on a weekly "Coach to Coach Radio" show this week with fellow 1980s Tennessee assistant Doug Mathews, and all that is on top of his roles as a husband, father and grandfather.

With the sixth year of the post-Fulmer era about to kick off in Knoxville, Fulmer recently joined Chattanooga's "Press Row" on ESPN 105.1 The Zone.

Q: So with all these jobs you're having to juggle, what's retirement like?

A: "I'm very busy, and it's a good busy. At least I have some control of my time compared to when I was coaching. I am amused when people ask how I'm doing in retirement. It's been fun, though."

Q: How challenging will it be for Tennessee to have new offensive and defensive lines?

A: "It's really tough, and unfortunately it's one of those things that only time is going to be able to heal. I do think there are some talented young guys there, and they've just got to continue to grow up. They will take their lumps some, and every game they should get better."

Q: It's been a tough few years for Tennessee's program, so how would you describe the mood of the fan base right now?

A: "I think it's good. We've had some stability now that had really been lacking for a while. I think Butch [Jones] has energized the fan base, so I don't have any problem with where we are right now. Everybody, I think, is understanding that this is not a quick fix and that he is working at making it happen. That's reflected in his recruiting classes.

"You're not going to have great teams unless you have great players and then coach the stew out of them. I certainly think he has improved the quality of players, but it's just the timing of not having the linemen at the same time you've got the skill was just one of those things that he couldn't completely fix in a year."

Q: How are things going as far as working with ETSU?

A: "It's been a lot of fun, and it's kind of given me my football fix. They are good people there, and it's more than just football. It's an initiative to help the university grow. I just think they've done a great job of getting it off the ground, but there is obviously a lot of work to be done. I've been glad to help them in any way I can.

"I don't spend a ton of time there, but I am working with them a few days a month as a consultant and in some fundraising areas."

Q: Nashville has grown a lot from when you started coaching. Are the days of Tennessee wanting just a few in-state prospects coming to an end?

A: "Tennessee has good players, and I don't think anybody has ever said that Tennessee doesn't have good players. We've had outstanding players at times, but it's just a numbers deal from a population base that you deal with. As we get more people in the state -- Nashville and Murfreesboro are just growing by leaps and bounds -- you're going to have more opportunities to have good players.

"The private schools particularly over there have gotten better. Ensworth coming on line is an example, because there are people moving in, and they're getting coached in good programs. I think the quality of Tennessee high school football is getting better, and I'm glad to see that. You're right. It's changed a lot since I was an assistant 25 or 30 years ago."

Q: Do you have a coach in the SEC right now other than Butch Jones who you appreciate?

A: "I think Mark Richt has done a fabulous job at Georgia. He's gotten some of the same grief that you get occasionally when you don't always win the championship at a school that wants to win the championship. He's done a fabulous job, and he's done it the right way. I think a lot of him, and as far as favorite people, he would probably be the one.

"There are a bunch of good coaches. You can't deny what Nick Saban has done and what Les Miles has done. It's just incredible what those guys have achieved."

Q: Finally, will Tennessee get to a bowl game?

A: "Should I be the alumnus or the former coach? I hope we can, and certainly our expectations are typically a lot higher than that. Just understanding where we are and where Butch is and the growth that has to come from having youthful offensive and defensive lines -- surely we can get to six or seven wins, I hope, and get to a bowl game. If we don't, I hope people don't panic and go off the deep end.

"We maybe could win eight or nine if things went right. We had teams when I coached that won 10 or 11 but were disappointed a little bit, and we had teams that won eight that we felt like we did a good job of coaching because of injuries or people graduating. I think the coaches will have a good perspective on it. The thing you have to look at is the body of work over a period of time, and Butch hasn't had enough time yet to fix the situation he inherited."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.