Doug Fulmer, now almost completely recovered from a “freak accident” ACL tear last spring, is back on the field and contributing to a deep and talented defensive line. A four-year starter at defensive back in high school, Fulmer first came to Pitt to play linebacker at before switching to defensive end.
After redshirting his freshman year, Fulmer had a solid debut in the 2006 season, starting three of four games before fracturing his left ankle against The Citadel. After sitting out the rest of that year, then tearing his ACL last spring, he’s gotten sick of being on the sidelines. Being on the field at defensive end, he said, is where he belongs.
“It’s real tough watching all your boys get all the action,” Fulmer said of his experiences on the sidelines. “But it’s been a year, so everything’s back OK.”
Fulmer has been slightly limited this spring, but has taken a good amount of reps with the first-team defense. He said physically he’s back completely. But there are little things he’s still working to improve.
“The fundamentals aren’t really there yet,” he said. “But I’m working at it. I’m pretty much full-go with the contact. My knee is back. It’s just more of me getting over it mentally.”
Defensive line coach Greg Gattuso said Fulmer has shown that he’s ready to be a big-time player for Pitt. He said Fulmer has been one of the stand-out players on the line to him this spring.
“For a kid that’s been out two years, he’s really impressed me with his play and his efforts,” Gattuso said. “When he got hurt he was our best player. He’s come out and has been in the mix. He’s sacked the quarterback, he’s played tough and he’s improved his technique. I think he’s got a great chance of starting for us and helping us a lot.”
Fulmer said his goal isn’t just to help out, but to be the starting weak-side defensive end. He said he will get some work during the Blue and Gold game Saturday night, but will make sure he doesn’t push it.
He’ll be playing on the opposite side of Greg Romeus, who emerged last year as a big contributor and has had a very strong spring. Also in the mix for the starting defensive line jobs are players like Mick Williams, Rashaad Duncan, Tommie Duhart, Tony Tucker and Jabaal Sheard. Gus Mustakas, who’s recovering from injury himself, is also expected to be in the conversation.
But Fulmer said he’s not worried about competition and expects everyone on the line to make an impact.
“We would like to have eight guys that we roll,” he said. “I’m fired up about those guys. [And] the nice thing about depth is that you can’t rest. If you’re not pulling the load, there’s always someone to step in front of you and take your job. The best motivational tool is talented depth.”
Gattuso added that although Fulmer looks to be one of the favorites to win the starting job, he still has some work to do in the summer and again in the fall.
“He’s constantly in action and he’s a high-energy player,” Gattuso said. “[But] I’d like to keep working on his power, which has improved dramatically in two years. But the stronger he gets the better.”