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Fulmer Attends Practice, Speaks To Vols

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Phillip Fulmer returned to practice for the first time since 2008, his last season as the Vols' head coach. He addressed the team as well as the media. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Phillip Fulmer returned to practice for the first time since 2008, his last season as the Vols' head coach. He addressed the team as well as the media. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Phillip Fulmer showed up at Tennessee's football practice Tuesday, his first appearance at Haslam Field since his 2008 departure.

It seemed and felt like the right time and the right opportunity for the national championship coach to make an appearance.

The Vols are sitting at 2-2 on the year and have a winnable game Saturday against South Alabama. It will be a much-needed win considering the brutal October schedule the Vols will face. The good news: Two of the three October games are at home. The bad news: The three games are against Georgia, South Carolina, and at Alabama.  

On top of the upcoming schedule, Butch Jones still is searching for a quarterback. Nathan Peterman is now out with a hand injury, forcing Justin Worley to take back the starting job.  

Now who will take the backup quarterback duties? Freshman Riley Ferguson and Josh Dobbs are the options. If Worley were to go down, one of the freshman will have to step in and step up.  

As I've said since the offseason, this year feels like 1994 and 2000. It felt like it was perfect timing for Phillip Fulmer to make his appearance at Tuesday's practice to deliver a message to Team 117. 

"I told them that a team that I had that was 1-3 at the beginning of the year, and as it turned out ended up being one of my favorite teams," Fulmer said of his 1994 squad. "That team laid the foundation for what turned out to be the best era in Tennessee modern history."  

Peyton Manning was the freshman quarterback in '94 and Casey Clausen emerged as freshman in '00. Neither started right away, but arguably became the two best quarterbacks in school history. Manning's name speaks for itself and Clausen posted a 14-1 road record.  

If Team 117 can settle in on a quarterback, a bowl game is achievable.

"That's this team's goal, to be the very best they can be daily, and that's exactly what Butch said to them in his meetings today," Fulmer said. "I think he's exactly on the right page and hopefully we'll continue getting better and better."  

Jones understands and appreciates what Fulmer means to Tennessee's football program. To be able to bring Fulmer in for a rallying point is an asset. 

"He definitely had everyone's attention," Jones said of Fulmer's message. "When he speaks, there's a presence about him. He commands respect. He had a great message of not only what it means to play at Tennessee, but about some of the teams that have played here in the past and the expectation that we have here."