Ainge again?

Look for Tennessee sophomore quarterback Erik Ainge, benched since the second quarter against LSU, to play on Oct. 22 at Alabama.

``I expect Erik Ainge to play against Alabama,'' UT offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said Monday at the Knoxville Quarterback Club weekly meeting. ``Whether it's the third or fourth series, I don't know. He's too good of a football player to be standing on the sideline.''

Sanders said UT debated several times inserting Ainge against Georgia.

``We went back to Rick (in the third quarter) because we thought he played well (in the first half) other than the interception in the end zone,'' Sanders said.

``We discussed it in the third quarter, but we felt he managed the protections well. We thought about it again in the fourth quarter but didn't because we didn't know if that would be fair to Ainge, who hadn't warmed up in two hours.''

Ainge admitted he's been frustrated but said he'll be ready when called upon. He also said rumors he might transfer are unfounded.

Sanders was asked about the need to have a mobile quarterback.

``No doubt, having a quarterback more mobile than Rick is nice,'' Sanders said. ``Making something positive would be great right now. We're not getting any of that with Rick. . But I don't ever want a quarterback that can't throw it or can't think.''

Sanders said he was frustrated with UT's lack of production against Georgia given the Vols' success on first down. Sanders said UT averaged 12 yards per pass on first down and eight yards per play on first down when ``4 yards is good.''

Tennessee is averaging less than 99 rushing yards per game, the program's worst mark since 1964. Gerald Riggs, who some listed as a Heisman Trophy candidate after his 1,100-yard season last year, is getting 92.4 yards per game but just 4.2 yards per carry. He averaged 5.7 last year.

Riggs had 19 carries for 52 yards against Georgia.

``Every time (Georgia safety) Greg Blue hit him, Riggs went down,'' Sanders said. ``Not many safeties have done that to us. After it happened a few times, I think Riggs got conscious of where Blue was. . I think Greg Blue make Riggs' body hurt more than Riggs making Blue's body hurt.''

In previous years, if a team loaded eight men in the box, UT would have seven blockers and challenge the running back to miss the safety. UT's runners in recent years haven't been good enough to make the safeties miss.

``Unless we face a safety we're genetically superior to, that will be a problem all year,'' Sanders said.

Sanders said opponents are bringing an extra guy near the line of scrimmage because defenses are ``not scared of what we're doing outside.''

Given UT's offensive woes, Sanders was asked if he might return to the press box, which he abandoned early in the 2001 season.

``The advantage of being on the field is you get the plays in faster,'' Sanders said. ``There were five or six time we got a late check to Rick. . The disadvantage from the sideline is you can't see things as clearly.''

Sanders was asked what UT's expectations are for the rest of the season.

``That's kind of like you're wife asking if she looks fat in something,'' Sanders said. ``As a staff and group of players, we expect to win the rest.''

Sanders said UT has a huge challenge going against No. 6 Alabama, which has the SEC's top-rated defense.

``Alabama might be the most hostile environment we've seen in a long time,'' he said. ``They feel good about themselves. They'll be smelling blood. It'll be kind of like throwing a minnow into a small sea of bass.

``If we can get that one, there's a great chance we can run the table. If we don't, our leadership will be challenged.''

Sanders said the 3-2 start has been hard to digest.

``It just rips at you,'' he said. ```But I ain't quitting. Not today. We've got to find a way to win the next six. I'll promise you, we haven't given up on this year.''

Trying to throw to the Tight End

Sanders said UT is trying to throw to the tight end more, but without success. The reasons vary.

He said the tight end was the primary option on six to eight plays against Georgia but each time, the Bulldogs blanketed Chris Brown.

Spreading the Field

Tennessee spread the field quite a bit against Georgia.

``I didn't feel like Georgia could cover our passing game when we spread out,'' Sanders said. ``I still don't think they did. We threw for 310 yards and it should have been more if we'd passed and caught better.''

Because UT went to the spread so often, fullback Cory Anderson only played 26 or 27 snaps, Sanders said.

Sanders said he thinks UT is executing well on 90 to 92 percent of its plays, but it's the others that are ``absolutely killing us.''

He said the Vols had 15 third downs and eight were third-an-10 or more.

Don't Fine Me

Sanders said he felt UT lineman Arron Sears recovered Clausen's fumble shortly before halftime.

``I thought it was pretty obvious Sears had the ball,'' Sanders said.

When it was suggested the officials blew it, Sanders said, ``I'm not going to say they blew it. Coach Fulmer paid a $10,000 fined for something he did last year.''

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