Return to La-La Land: Fulmer Goes Back to Tennessee, and Other Spring Game Action

He must have felt a bit like Alice stepping through the looking glass, but Phil Fulmer returned to Tennessee on Saturday -- which means he bested Johnny Majors by something approaching 17 years.

Speaking of Majors -- Fulmer did, which raised some eyebrows among those familiar with the long-simmering suspicions between the two.

"I hope I have followed the lead of Doug Dickey and John Majors, my mentors, and honored the spirit of Tennessee football,'' said Fulmer, the fifth former UT coach and 44th overall recipient of the annual [Robert R. Neyland A]ward given by the Knoxville Quarterback Club in conjunction with the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. ...

Some were surprised Fulmer paid tribute to Majors on two occasions during his acceptance speech.

"Ultimately, it's about the Tennessee family,'' said Fulmer, whose history with Majors has been well-documented. "I'm a branch of that tree and we're all interconnected.

"We all learned from each other and from the General.''

For those of you unfamiliar with the Majors-Fulmer bit: Majors hired Fulmer as an assistant, then watched as Fulmer took over when Majors was canned by Tennessee. Then, as speculation grew about Fulmer's status last season, Majors was dispensing helpful quotes, like calling his decision to hire Fulmer "one of the main mistakes I made in my coaching career" after saying "John Chavis has saved [Fulmer's] job for 10 years."

Okay, maybe Tennessee football went through the looking glass long before Boy Wonder was hired.

Ah, Boy Wonder -- he does understand that only the players are allowed on the field during the regular season, right?

"I'm sure me being out there in the huddle helped our offense," Kiffin said following Saturday's Orange and White Game, which the offense won 41-23. ...

"I saw Gerald coming and I felt like he overran it a little bit so I stayed in bounds and stepped back," [QB B.J.] Coleman said. "By that time Quintin had gotten himself in a free spot in the endzone. I felt like it was very important to put it where only he could catch the ball."

In fairness, that does represent progress for the Vols signal-callers. But one does wonder if the score might have changed if Grandaddy Google had been allowed to coach the defense as closely as Boy Wonder worked with the offense. Gramps Google was apparently busy "cavort[ing] like a sophomore on spring break," which brings all sort of mental images I'd rather forget.

hooper gives high marks to the offense line, the running backs and Ed Orgeron's voice, but sees the quarterback play as inconsistent and the second-string defensive line as a big drop off from the starters.

A thought: Tennessee's defense was really the only thing that kept last year's debacle from turning into a disaster. So is it good or bad that the offense beat them in the Spring Game?

And a side note: LOGOS AND COLORS, IN THE NEWPAPER!!! YIPEE!!!!! Kiffin admits an infraction, but don't call it a recruiting violation.

Tennessee denied Friday that it had self-reported a secondary violation to the NCAA concerning contact between football coach Lane Kiffin and South Carolina signee Alshon Jeffery after national signing day on Feb. 4. ...

However, Tennessee director of public relations Tiffany Carpenter, after consulting UT's compliance department Friday, said the contact "is not an NCAA violation," but rather what she called a "national letter of intent infraction."

Who cares about semantics? Who cares that he's breaking the rules?!? He's in the paper -- can't you see, people? That's all that's important!!! The recruits will flock to Tennessee's rule-breaking program like moths to a flame!!! ReTuRn To GlOrY!!!

FLORIDA: THE NEXT GOLDEN CHILD

John Brantley: The man, the myth, the legend. Another quarterback that Florida fans imagine will make the Gators "superb to all the teams in the conferences that we play."

Greaaaaaaaaaat.

The Gators backup - a talent 75 percent of the teams around the country wouldn't mind having as a starter right now - threw for 265 yards with three touchdown passes and two rushing scores in the Orange team's 31-21 win over the Blue team in front of an announced crowd of 65,000 at The Swamp.

After concluding his low-key interview, Tebow said into the microphone "Here's John Brantley," mimicking Ed McMahon introducing Johnny Carson. ...

Tebow knows his 6-foot-3, 220-pound successor won't barrel over defensive linemen like the Heisman Trophy winner does, but Brantley showcased an adequate scrambling style Saturday with 23 yards.

The performance was enough for [Urban] Meyer to call Brantley "like Alex Smith" in his spread attack.

For the uninitiated: All Alex Smith did was lead Utah to an undefeated season and its first BCS bowl win back in 2004.

In any case, Tebow was limited, a ton of starters didn't take the field and Brantley played for both teams in the second half, so take whatever you want to from the results. But it's obvious that Florida is impressed enough with Brantley that you can probably make a mint by reserving floridathreepeat2010.com, if you're so inclined.

How long before ESPN predicts Florida-Southern Cal as the national title game for 2010, 2011, 2012, etc.? The threat of that kind of complacency has Urban Meyer threatening to run a training camp that sounds almost like shades of Junction Boys. The Golden Tebow, of course, is all for it.

ALABAMA: 'WE CAN BE AN OUTSTANDING TEAM'

Nick Saban apparently has time for this football team, telling his players that this version of Alabama "can be an outstanding team." Whether outstanding teams can beat Utah is still an open question, but we'll see, or at least see if they can repeat a 12-0 regular season.

The headline for Alabama is that the QB competition appears to be all but over: Barring a summer upset, Greg McElroy will be your starter in 2009. He was the front-runner to begin with, but had a good day (sans the two interceptions) in front of what could be termed a disappointing crowd. Only in Alabama can 84,050 fans watching a meaningless scrimmage even be arguably a disappointing crowd.

My observation from watching some of the game on ESPN: Percy Harvin + Crimson = Marquis Maze. You will know his name by the end of the season, and probably fairly early in the fall.

Would that I could have seen Tyrone Prothro back on the football field. This is the one thing for which I, as a non-Alabama fan, can never forgive Mike Shula. Now, Alabama fans have a lot more to hold against him, but that's all that's on my ledger.

ARKANSAS: THE STARTER WILL BE ... PROBABLY THE SAME GUY, ACTUALLY

The spring game might have just muddied the QB situation at Arkansas, though if the Gypsy Coach of the South is saying a starter will be named later this week, one has to imagine Mallett is still the man for the job.

That's not to say that things can't change in the fall, though, and Tyler Wilson at least seems intent on making things interesting.

"I don't think there's any pressure at all," Petrino said. "I kind of know what we're going to do there. I think they both got good opportunities. I think they both can play the position. That's a major plus for us as a football team. We need that. They both have a great relationship and I'm looking forward to getting to the summer and letting them work there." [EMPHASIS C&F's]

Again, sounds like Mallett is your guy. But by a slightly smaller margin than he held Friday.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: ATTENDANCE EQUALS THE A-DAY FLAG FOOTBALL GAME

A massive, record-breaking audience for Mississippi State's spring game. Brace yourselves. Drum roll please ...

31,606.

Really? Nick Saban scoffs at your pitiful spring game attendance.

Actual game? Well, the offense is better -- but when you consider the soul-crushing enterprise that was Sylvester Croom's offense, this is all relative.

But the play-by-play proved secondary on a night that saw so many show up at Scott Field - and saw so many points, at least in relation to previous spring games, scored.

Mullen admitted to being a little nervous before the game when he saw the crowd and wondered if his players could actually score points. (Last year's spring game, you'll recall, ended in a scoreless tie in regulation.)

So, yeah, even if it was "a game dominated by field goals" in the first half, that's improvement.

OLE MISS: AN EVEN SMALLER RECORD ... BUT THEY HAVE SNEAD

It's easier to handle a smaller record crowd -- 28,357 -- when you have an experienced quarterback and, you know, hope. (In fairness to the state of Mississippi, though, no one cared about spring game attendance until Alabama turned out 92,000 in Nick Saban's first year. It's worth asking whether this is a measure of the enthusiasm of other team's fan bases or an indictment of the mental health system in the state of Alabama, but I digress.)

It was one of many good throws for Snead, who completed 11-of-15 passes for 254 yards as the Blue team beat the Red team 55-28 in front of a record announced crowd of 28,357. ...

Snead's dominance was just one part of a very good day for the offense. Eight touchdowns were scored by seven different players. ...

The Red team, which consisted of mostly reserves, received seven points after each quarter to try and keep the game competitive, but never actually scored a touchdown.

You know who they need? John Brantley.

AUBURN: HOORAY! WE BEAT THE SCRUBS!

Auburn's offense had a great day. Fantastic. Won big. Scored TDs -- which Tony Franklin viewed as exotic things best enjoyed in moderation.

Um, beat writer?

When Auburn's first-team offensive linemen looked up from their stance, they looked into eyes of players who rarely stepped inside the white lines of Jordan-Hare Stadium last season. The wide receivers matched up against a couple underclassmen and darted through a linebacking unit and secondary littered with walk-ons.

Ah, well. That's makes things a bit different. So what was the take-away?

Kodi Burns and [Neil] Caudle each looked like All-SEC quarterbacks running the first team. With the second-team, both had their weaknesses exposed.

Caudle finished with the better stat line - 11-for-16, 161 yards, two touchdowns - but Burns had better production around him when he ran the group in the first half.

So somewhere between "All-SEC" and "weak." See, Auburn fans? There's hope. I guess.

LSU: THE STARTER IS JORDAN JEFFERSON. SHH. IT'S A SECRET

Looks like you can go ahead and call LSU's QB competition -- if there ever was one -- for Jordan Jefferson, who looked very good in the spring game after looking very good at the end of last season.

No pressure, Jordan. You just have to revive the Bayou Bengal dynasty after a 7-5 season. So, you know, relax.

In any case, Les Miles is hearing none of this "Jefferson will start" nonsense.

"Yeah -- I don't make too much of that, " Miles said, when asked if Jefferson was now the acknowledged starter. "Fall competition is more important than the spring. Fall is a different breed of cat."

All LSU fans hope is that 2009 will be "a different breed of cat" than 2008.

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