No mo' toe woe

When Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge suffered a turf-toe injury last September against Florida, it didn't just affect his foot. It affected his delivery and even his fundamentals. Thus, the 2005 Vol offense may have been crippled by one injured toe.

"I was told that I started throwing off the side of my foot so I wouldn't have to step on my toe," he recently recalled. "I wasn't consciously doing it to avoid pain."

So, why didn't he take some time off to see if the injury would heal?

"It wasn't like I could take two or three days off during the week, then try to play on Saturday," Ainge explained. "Because every day in practice was a competition between me and Rick (Clausen)."

Clausen and Ainge wound up sharing the first-team quarterback job all season. Clausen went 1-5 in six starts. Ainge went 4-1 in five starts but owed one of those victories to Clausen, who bailed him out with a spectacular second-half performance at LSU.

Now that Clausen is out of eligibility and working as a UT grad assistant, Erik Ainge is looking to be the full-time quarterback for 2006. His toe is better and, he believes, so are his fundamentals.

"The biggest thing with me is, when I know what to do – where the ball's going or what kind of drop I need to take – my fundamentals are fine," he said. "What got me sometimes last year was trying to do too much, trying to think too much, and getting unsure. That's when you're chopping your feet and you're off-balance.

"When you know what to do, that's when your fundamentals are at their best. I think I'll see a drastic improvement in my fundamentals."

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