Fulmer: Vols could have 'real opportunity' with a win over Georgia

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer, shown here during his final season with the Volunteers in 2008, is excited about the potential of this year's team but has his concerns.

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer is beginning his second year co-hosting the "Coach To Coach" radio show, which can be heard every Friday night at 6 on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM.

Fulmer was a guest Tuesday afternoon on "Press Row" on 105.1 to discuss the upcoming season for Butch Jones and his 25th-ranked Volunteers.

Q: How is year two of the radio gig?

A: "It's good. This is just a great opportunity to stay in tune to college football and give a different perspective, and it's really been fun. It's not that consuming, so it doesn't take away from my business or my family, and I actually enjoy just keeping up."

Q: There were a lot of years you had to temper high expectations. How are you handling this year's team?

A: "I've got Butch's back in every way that I can. He's doing a great job. We talk occasionally, and I want him to do well. He's young yet, and he's at least a year away from where he wants to be, but as an alumnus and a fan, I'm optimistic that we'll have a good year.

"If things happen just right - Georgia is an interesting team, and we've been really close every year that Butch has been here. If we were to get them, then we would have a real opportunity, because I don't think the (SEC) East is great."

Q: Having attended a couple of practices, what are your biggest concerns?

A: "The offensive line is obviously the biggest concern. The good news is that they're all back, and the bad news may be that they're all back. They've got to get better, and it was incredible how Josh Dobbs made such a difference with his mobility from what they were early on. People say that the offensive line got a lot better, but I don't know that they did. They are better having watched them yesterday, but they're not where they need to be and now have an injury (Marcus Jackson) to deal with.

"My second concern would be youth overall and depth in some areas, because you have to have depth in this league. My next two concerns after that would be at middle linebacker and our punter. The kid last year (Matt Darr) made a huge difference by changing field position in some tough games, and he was a big part of why we won seven."

Q: How much has Dobbs improved from a year ago, and can you compare him to someone you had?

A: "I haven't seen a lot of practices, but I've seen enough of Josh Dobbs to know he can have a special year. I know (Dak) Prescott is coming back at Mississippi State, but when you have your quarterback returning who played as well as Dobbs played the last six or seven ballgames last year, you've got a chance. If he plays up to the level that I think he can, he'll be the best one in the league in my opinion.

"Who does he remind me of? Not Peyton (Manning), that's for sure. Brent Schaeffer played a little bit for us and had that kind of escapability and mobility, but I don't know if I had one quite like him. If you really wanted to get down to it, I guess it would be Heath Shuler."

Q: This team has a lot of legacies. Does that make you feel old or proud?

A: "Both. I was either an assistant coach or the head coach for a lot of those guys, and it's good to see them follow suit and come to Tennessee. It's great to see that guys felt good enough about the program when Butch came here and that they wanted to send their sons here to help us get back on track."

Q: Will Alabama be the dominant team in the SEC, or do you think it's a wide-open race?

A: "On the East side, I think it's Georgia and Tennessee, personally. I know Missouri is in there, but I think South Carolina is kind of falling off. It's just not very good what's in the East, and it's amazing what's over on the West. I think you have to pick Alabama based on their consistency, but I love the quarterback (Jeremy Johnson) at Auburn right now. I think he's got it all. He can throw it as well as anybody and runs well enough to be dangerous in that offense, but can they be good enough on defense?

"I like Arkansas, too. They run the football and have an established mentality. They took Alabama to the wire last year, and you can really almost pick anybody in the West to be in it. That can be a blessing and a curse, because the West winner may have two losses."

Q: Turning to our rapid fire, which Tennessee newcomer will have the biggest impact?

A: "The backup tailback, Alvin Kamara. I think he's special."

Q: If the over/under for this year's team is eight wins, where are you going?

A: "I would go there or over eight."

Q: What SEC venue outside Neyland Stadium did you enjoy coaching in most?

A: "Georgia, probably, but I loved LSU, too. That's a hard one. I did like going to other stadiums and beating them."

Q: How much money would it take for you to get in the ring and fight Ronda Rousey?

A: "There's not enough."

Q: You've been an adviser to East Tennessee State's football rebirth. How long before the Bucs post winning seasons in the FCS?

A: "This will be their first year, and I really think that by their third year they could be in the hunt for the Southern Conference championship."

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