Changing Ainge

New Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is hoping to change Erik Ainge's performance level. First, though, he wants to change his mechanics. That could be a key element of spring practice.

"We're going to change some things with Erik from a mechanics standpoint," Cutcliffe concedes. "There are some things we want to do with his lower body. He's got a nice motion and a good arm, but there are some things we've got to change with his lower body. We've got about 12 teaching days, and we've got to utilize every one of those."

Ainge performed exceptionally well as a freshman in 2004, completing 55.1 percent of his passes for 1,452 yards with nearly twice as many touchdown passes (17) as interceptions (9). He regressed as a sophomore in 2005, however, completing just 45.5 percent for 737 yards with fewer touchdowns (5) than interceptions (7).

Since Ainge seemed to lose his poise and his confidence in '05, restoring them would appear to be a priority. But Cutcliffe says Ainge getting his swagger back isn't a major consideration.

"I really don't want him worrying about that right now," Cutcliffe says. "All I want any of them (quarterbacks) worrying about is trying to be a good football player that play."

Toward that end, Cutcliffe is going back to basics this spring. He figures he has to teach his QBs – Ainge, Jonathan Crompton, Bo Hardegree and Jim Bob Cooter – to walk before he asks them to run.

"We're literally going to take it from the ground up," the coordinator says. "The way you gain confidence is by knowing you absolutely know what to do with the ball every time the ball is snapped. That doesn't happen overnight. Right now I don't want them to worry about anything but being a good football player. The rest of it will take care of itself."

Still, Cutcliffe insists he will expect a lot from his quarterbacks this spring.

"I'm going to drill the quarterbacks and coach them on the field hard," he says. "I'll obviously be watching everybody on tape.

"They all have a lot to learn, and I have a lot to learn about them. All we're going to focus on is trying to get better at the position every day. They've responded pretty well, and we've challenged them with a lot of information. They're really starting to understand some things."

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