Quarterback outlook

Rising junior Erik Ainge was No. 1 and redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart when Tennessee began spring football practice today.

No matter which guy wins the job, Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer is confident of one thing:

"I'm not trying to make a black-box statement," he said, "but I believe we will be darned good at quarterback.

"We have a talented and experienced guy in Erik. We have talent and excellent potential in Jon Crompton. And we have, I think, the finest quarterback coach in America (David Cutcliffe).

"It is our job to put Erik and Jon in positions to be successful and allow their talent and potential to show. I did not do a good job of that last year, and it will be done much better this year."

Ainge entered last spring bracketed No. 1 with Rick Clausen. Ainge struggled all spring and all fall. Will being listed No. 1 help him relax and perform better this time?

"It might help a little subconsciously," he said. "But I also know I can't slack. Just because I'm the starter right now doesn't mean I'm going to be the starter versus California the first game. I still have a little way to go with some guys on this team as far as proving myself to them again.

"It's a little different in that I'm not coming into it dead even with somebody. I was dead even with Brent Schaeffer my freshman year. Me and Rick Clausen were dead even my sophomore year. That doesn't mean there isn't talent behind me and guys that can play … there definitely is. But it's a little bit different approach."

Crompton missed his freshman season due to surgery on his shoulder and bicep. He finally was cleared 100 percent on Monday. Asked if he anticipates more difficulty catching up physically or mentally, he shrugged.

"Probably both," he said. "My arm is going to be sore but the mental part is going to be tough getting out there for the first time and going through everything. It'll be both, but that's part of the game."

Asked how he'll approach the competition with Ainge, Crompton replied:

"Just go out there and have fun. It's just a game of football still. You can't make it more than what it is. Me and Erik will go out there and play our games, have fun doing it. That's all there is to it."

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