Feb. 4, 2005
By Dennis Dodd
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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Has there been a better week in Tennessee football history?

OK, OK, we remember Tempe in January 1999.

But the fools that keep criticizing Phil Fulmer have to be swimming in their own bile this week. In one seven-day period ...


Fulmer signed a new contract that pays him $2.05 million per year.
Logan Young was convicted in the SEC's Trial of the Century.
Tennessee won another national championship.
It was only a recruiting title -- two services ranked the Vols' class No. 1 -- but signing day was the cap on a fairly good week. And Fulmer -- the nation's winningest active coach (.799) -- has shown he knows what to do with those recruits.


$2 Million Club's new member
Details of Phil Fulmer's contract:
Base: $325,000
Radio/TV: $800,000
Apparel fee: $625,000
Appearance fee: $300,000
Incentives
Non-BCS bowl: $37,500
SEC East tie: $50,000
SEC championship game: $75,000
SEC championship/BCS bowl: $100,000
BCS title game: $150,000
BCS championship: $250,000

The school rewarded Fulmer on Tuesday with a one-year extension that runs through the 2011 season. Fulmer completed his eighth 10-win season after a 31-point victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

He rounded up a 27-man class that included at least four players that were rated the best at their position -- defensive end Raymond Henderson from Wisconsin, linebacker Andre Mathis from Pennsylvania, defensive back Adam Myers-White from Ohio and linebacker Rico McCoy from Washington D.C.

Tennessee (10-3 in 2004) will return in 2005 again in a position to challenge for the SEC title. It won the SEC East (again) last year before losing to Auburn in the league title game. Fulmer already has some of the country's best young talent, including quarterback Erik Ainge who will return from a shoulder injury.

The Young verdict -- guilty of racketeering in the Albert Means case -- hopefully ends one of the more bitter periods in SEC history. The sniping between Alabama and Tennessee had reached critical levels. Last year SEC commissioner Mike Slive pushed through a set of guidelines. The goal -- no school is on NCAA probation by later in the decade.

Fulmer, afraid of getting a subpoena in a suit against the NCAA by two former Alabama assistants, skipped the SEC media days. He was fined $10,000 by the conference.

The Tennessee critics were beginning to doubt Fulmer. No, he hasn't won an SEC title in six years. Yes, his program has lost four of its past six bowl games. But the state of Tennessee produces few blue-chip players. The program has had to recruit in surrounding states and across the country.

Former Georgia assistant Greg Adkins became recruiting coordinator almost two years ago. Since then he has landed Ainge, fellow quarterback Brent Schaeffer, as well as this week's No. 1 class.


Spurning the 'Horns
There is an air of disappointment in Austin, where Coach February (aka Mack Brown) failed to sign a quarterback, or a player from Houston.

We'll give Mack a mulligan on this one. The small signing class (14) is the result of the classes being stacked up evenly on the roster. The school expects to sign only 14-17 players in the coming years. It brought in only 20 players for visits.

That's not exactly a problem. Texas' best players have made a habit of sticking around Austin for an extra year, instead of heading to the NFL.

Mostly because it's Austin.

The lack of Houston players is a concern but only that. Houston players have been regularly recruited to Austin since at least the earliest days of Darryl Royal.

But Brown deserves another Titleist because five-star quarterback Ryan Perrilloux of Reserve, La., pulled out at the last minute and committed to LSU. That's not the coach's fault. Perrilloux had been very vocal about going to a school where he could play right away. During the 2004 season, he said Texas QB Vince Young had assured him he was leaving (for the NFL) after his junior season in 2005.

Young is a rising talent but isn't near ready for the NFL judging by his inconsistent arm. Perrilloux seemed to figure that out and headed to Baton Rouge, where he likes his chances of playing right away.

One problem: Sophomore JaMarcus Russell, No. 1 on the depth chart, has three years of eligibility left.

"Finishing second in recruiting is the worst thing that can happen," Brown told reporters. "You've spent all that time and energy, and if you don't know until signing day that you finished second, you've really lost twice: That player and somebody else you could have recruited."

The Longhorns are a bit short at quarterback behind Young. Rising senior Matt Nordgren will be the No. 2. Signee Colt McCoy comes in automatically as the No. 3.


Rebounding from tragedy
Lynard Barbosa signed with Louisiana-Monroe less than a year after losing four persons close to him in a McKinney, Texas, quadruple homicide.

In March, Barbosa lost a brother, an aunt and two teammates in the city's first murders since 1995. All four were shot in the head. One suspect remains at large. Another suspect pleaded guilty to having a role in a local drug ring. He is still being investigated for the murders.

McKinney North had varsity football for only three years before Barbosa became the starting quarterback as a junior. He lost his 46-year old aunt, 25-year-old brother and teammates Matthew Self and Austin York. At the time the McKinney police chief said that the players were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In his senior season, Barbosa helped establish a McKinney North tradition that was a dream of Self's -- having players run through a tunnel before games.


New Gators
Urban Meyer hit the ground sprinting. Florida's new coach had about three weeks to assemble what became a top 20 class.

Meyer not only had to recruit right away but lost recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley to Ron Zook at Illinois.

"There is zero trust right now," Meyer said. "If the players said they trusted me they would not be telling the truth. If I said I trusted the players, I would not be telling the truth because trust takes a lot of time."

Meyer admittedly had to scramble. Receiver Nyan Boateng was the first player from one of New York's five boroughs to come to Gainesville. The Brooklyn resident's family is from Africa. He has a typical Gator receiver build -- 6-feet-2 and 200 pounds with a 40-inch vertical leap.

Nyan's mother was working around the house on Sept. 11, 2001, when she peered off into the distance to see a smoking World Trade Center. She was able to videotape the second plane hitting the other tower.

"Nyan came home a month later and videotapes one of his all-star games on top of it so she lost that tape forever," Meyer said.

There is a "severe" shortage at linebacker, Meyer added. The program was caught shorthanded when linebacker Channing Crowder departed early for the NFL. Predictably, Meyer signed four linebackers, including four-star prospect Jon Demps from Pensacola, Fla.

That meant the coach wasn't exactly fresh for signing day. He stayed on the phone until about 2 a.m. persuading Demps' mother her son should come to Gainesville. That was followed by the beginning of mat drills at 6 a.m.

"I got about two solid hours of sleep," he said, "and I'm ready to go."


Amazingly similar tragedies
Wednesday came and went without a scholarship offer for California junior college linebacker Marcus Raines. The situation of the Pasadena (Calif.) City College star has been chronicled in this space.

Raines pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and served time. That stemmed from the death of a man at a May 2000 high school party. Marshall was among those schools that offered Raines a scholarship but retracted it after his situation became widely known.

But Marshall did sign Carson, Calif., linebacker Brandon Souder. Same position, same state, same situation as Raines. The difference was that Souder, from Los Angeles Southwest Junior College, was found not guilty of second-degree murder less than a year ago.

Two years ago Souder allegedly struck 5-9, 140-pound Fabian Espinoza during an argument in a school parking lot. Espinoza fell, struck his head but went home under his own strength. He was found dead the next morning. A juvenile court judge ruled that Souder had acted in self-defense.

"It's a blessing," Souder told the Daily Breeze after getting the scholarship.

"Our life will never be the same his life just keeps getting better and better," said Charlene Remark, Espinoza's mother.


Colorado's legacy living on ...
Just in case you forgot about Colorado's notorious past over the past year: Junior college quarterback Colt Brennan was told Tuesday that Syracuse had dropped him. School administration did not approve Greg Robinson's scholarship offer.

Brennan was sentenced in January after being found guilty of second-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespass and unlawful sexual conduct. Brennan was a walk-on at Colorado in January 2004 when he allegedly went in the dorm room of a female student, fondled her and exposed himself.


Quick hits

Southern California had another top five class but missed out on North Hollywood, Calif., running back Marlon Lucky. Lucky is seen as a lock to see significant playing time at Nebraska which, frankly, can offer it more readily than USC. Not that USC didn't pursue him. North Hollywood quarterback Will Cowan told the story of Pete Carroll, offensive coordinator Norm Chow and secondary coach Greg Burns showing up at a game right under the goalposts North Hollywood was headed toward on offense. "You couldn't not see them," Cowan told the Omaha World-Herald. "They were staring into Marlon's eyes on every play."
Carroll still hasn't reorganized his staff after losing defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and possibly losing Chow. Chow will interview for the same position with the Tennessee Titans. Observers are wondering why Chow, having just missed on the Stanford job, would make what is essentially a lateral move. There is speculation that there might be a rift between Chow and Carroll. Chow might be promoted to assistant head coach, Orgeron's old position. That would clear the way for Carroll to bring back former assistant Steve Sarkisian (currently with the Raiders and a former BYU quarterback). Speculation is that Sarkisian could take some of Chow's play-calling duties.