Eight straight days without internet access was trying. Re-entry was a lot like trying to merge back onto a six-lane interstate packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic traveling at the speed of light. Getting up to speed did, however, bring a few things into focus:
GoVolsXtra’s John Pennington pointed out that the Vols’ game against California on September 2, 2006 will be the most important season-opener in coach Fulmer’s career, and Inside Tennessee’s Jimmy Hyams concurred, saying the Cal game will define the 2006 season and Fulmer’s future. No question, Cal is going to be tough, as they are the second-best team in the PAC-10, just behind Southern Cal. Not your typical cupcake opener, and UT will have re-entry issues of its own. The schedule is tough and front-loaded, and if the team gets off to a good start, all may be well. If not, well, things could get ugly in a hurry, and the team’s new emphasis on discipline may indeed lead to a rift between the offense and defense.
UT fans, while not necessarily “troglodytes living off deviled ham in plush but chilly underground lairs”, are still divided on the Fulmer question. Many are behind him, but it seems that just as many are already erecting the gallows and knotting the noose. On this theme, VolQuest.com’s Brent Hubbs had an excellent article last week that compiled the five moments that define Fulmer to those that support him and the five that define him to those in the pointy black hoods.
In which camp are you, and why? When you think of Fulmer do you tend to remember the 1995 win over the Tide, Travis Stephens running over, around, and through the Gators in the Swamp in 2001, Derrick Tinsley’s end-around at Miami in 2003, and the 1998 National Championship in Tempe? Or does the mere mention of Fulmer’s name conjure up uneasy memories of getting behind the Gators 35-0 in the blink of an eye in 1996, death by the hobnail boot, blowing a shot at the Rose Bowl and the National Championship in 2001, and a loss to Vanderbilt?