Moreover, the two holdovers from 2005 are manning new positions. Trooper Taylor has moved from running backs to wide receivers, Greg Adkins from tight ends to offensive line.
“The offensive staff obviously changed completely,” Fulmer concedes.
Given how poorly the offense performed last season, that’s probably a good thing. Tennessee averaged just 18.6 points per game en route to a 5-6 record. That sealed Sanders’ doom and brought Cutcliffe back into the fold. He coordinated the explosive UT offenses of 1993-98 and is looking to breathe some life into the 2006 attack unit.
“I’m thrilled to have David back and leading that side of the ball,” Fulmer says.
Although Roper, 33, and Luke, 29, are new to the staff, both worked for Cutcliffe during his stint as head man at Ole Miss. Thus, the youthful additions are familiar with the system and terminology Tennessee will be using.
“All of the coaches have taken their challenges as they’ve needed to,” Fulmer notes, adding that he’s enjoying “the youthfulness and excitement and input Matt and Kurt have had.”
As for Adkins, he assisted with the offensive line last season, so he isn’t exactly in uncharted waters.
“Greg has been here and understands what I expect from the front guys,” Fulmer concedes.
With two rookies (Roper, Luke), two holdovers (Taylor, Adkins) and one second-timer (Cutcliffe), Tennessee’s offensive staff offers an interesting mix of old and new. Fulmer believes his aides are meshing into a cohesive group. They’d better because the offense must improve significantly in 2006 if the Vols are to be competitive in the rugged SEC.
“There’s a good attitude right now about what they’re trying to get done,” he says. “But there’s a lot of work to do to get to where we can be the kind of offense that makes the plays to win the ballgame.”