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UT's Pruitt, Fulmer looking forward to facing ETSU on gridiron

Joe Avento • May 25, 2018 at 1:15 PM

KINGSPORT — New Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt considers Randy Sanders a friend, so when the Vols host East Tennessee State this fall at Neyland Stadium, it will be a game between familiar foes.

The game is set for Sept. 8, and it’s one local football fans have had circled on their calendars since it was announced. Sanders, who began his coaching career at Tennessee, is now ETSU’s coach.

The two coached together at Florida State in 2013.

“We had a blast,” Pruitt said of Pruitt during Thursday night’s Big Orange Caravan stop at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. “I think he’s a fine coach. He golfs like I do, which is not very good. We went out and chased the ball around a few times.

“He’s a very good football coach and he’ll do a fantastic job.”

Pruitt, whose team will be heavily favored, is just hoping Sanders doesn’t do such a fantastic job during the season’s second weekend.

The Big Orange Caravan drew a huge crowd to MeadowView and Pruitt wasn’t the only coach on hand with ties to ETSU personnel. Phillip Fulmer, now Tennessee’s athletic director, helped ETSU find Carl Torbush to be its first coach when the program was resurrected.

In his role as special assistant to Dr. Richard Sander, ETSU’s athletic director, and through his work with Dr. Brian Noland, ETSU’s president, Fulmer gained some insight that will come in handy in his new job.

“It gave me my football fix,” Fulmer said. “Being around coaches and starting a program, that was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed Dr. Sander and Dr. Nolan. They were great. I saw the other side of it, from an administrative standpoint, and that was beneficial to me. I didn’t know it was going to be so much until later.

“I saw a vision that Dr. Noland had and how he followed up and got it done.

“I’m telling you, that was a great scene at that first football game in that stadium,” Fulmer added. “The folks at ETSU should be very proud, and they couldn’t have a better guy than Randy Sanders leading the charge now.”

How will Fulmer handle the Sept. 8 meeting between the schools?

“I’ll probably be more concerned about making sure the concession stands are running right and the other stuff that I’ll get letters about,” he said. “Hopefully the game will be good.”

Fulmer was asked if he’d like to see the Vols play another game at Bristol Motor Speedway. BMS officials have said they are looking to hold another game after the first one between Tennessee and Virginia Tech set the attendance record for a college football game.

“I’m certainly not against that,” Fulmer said. “There’s been much conversation about that particular game and how much people enjoyed it, the uniqueness of it, and it turned out to be a good game. So yeah, I think that’s something that could be in the future.”

The enthusiastic crowd at MeadowView was lined up well before the doors opened. Autograph lines were long and there was plenty of spirit for the Vols at the event.

“Growing up I knew all about the Tennessee fan base,” Pruitt said. “They’ve not really disappointed everywhere we’ve went for this Big Orange Caravan. You can see the passion. Everybody’s hungry. Everybody’s ready to get started. They can’t wait. It’s a good thing.”

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