As of this season, it is no longer great to be a Tennessee Vol.
And we can thank Phillip Fulmer for that.
Late in a pathetic 2008 season—six losses and counting, five in the SEC—Phillip Fulmer was finally asked to step down as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. The entire year of 2008 has been bad, save for the Jan. 1st Outback Bowl victory.
Tennessee finished 36th in recruiting, the lowest of Fulmer's tenure. David Cutcliffe bolted to Duke for the head coach position and Trooper Taylor to Baylor for the offensive coordinator spot.
Then, September finally rolled around and Jonathan Crompton made us all yearn for the Manning days as he looked like an even more inaccurate version of Reggie Ball, which can be contributed to the coaches.
His tenure as the starting QB ended after a horrendous 8-for-23 outing against Auburn, including a fumble in UT's own end zone recovered by the Tigers for what ended up being the deciding touchdown.
Nick Stephens was named the starter against Northern Illinois and since has played better than Crompton, but the offensive line, predicted by many to be the best in the SEC, has not backed him up. You can attribute that to coaching.
It pretty much all came crashing down against South Carolina.
Tennessee had lost once—once—to South Carolina in Fulmer's tenure. The offense proceeded to look like the worst offense in girl's powderpuff football history. The O-line gave up five sacks. Stephens threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Crompton was put in and attempted to be Ryan Leaf. They failed three times on fourth downs in SC territory.
And on Monday, Fulmer was finally let go after 17 years as the head coach at Tennessee. Many fans feel this was well belated, as this could be UT's second losing season in four years. Even if Tennessee wins out they may not make a bowl at 6-6 and 3-5 in the SEC. The season, pretty much, is lost.
But the real question is: Who will be the new head coach?
There have been some names mentioned, specifically Tulsa's Todd Graham and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly. What Tennessee needs is a proven coach who knows how to run an offense properly and can recruit better than Fulmer has lately.
The first thing the new head coach has to do is to keep the recruits that Tennessee already has for 2009.
They currently have nine four-stars, including heralded dual-threat QB Tajh Boyd and linebacker Jerod Askew, and 12 three-stars. The new coach's first priority should be keeping these recruits, as some of them have potential to be All-Americans in the future.
The new coach also needs to let the new offensive coordinator, Dave Clawson, actually call the plays. Under Fulmer, Clawson called the minority of the offensive plays, and David Cutcliffe was the only OC to really change this somewhat. Clawson had proven himself at Richmond, taking a football program from being a pathetic excuse to getting 11 wins in 2007.
But the main thing the new coach needs to do?
He needs to make it great to be a Tennessee Vol once again.