As spring practice heads into the home stretch, David Cutcliffe is pleased with the work of UT's top three QBs – third-year junior Erik Ainge, redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton and fourth-year junior Bo Hardegree.
As the Vols' most experienced quarterback, Ainge is listed No. 1 on the depth chart. To date, he has done nothing to warrant losing that distinction.
"He's playing at a much better tempo," Cutcliffe said earlier this week. "We've solved a lot of his problems with his footwork, which has made him throw the ball better. He's throwing the ball with more confidence. I like what I've seen. He is starting to command more of the offense. You see that in his eyes. He's starting to understand the big picture, and that's a big plus."
Crompton, coming off shoulder surgery, has been progressing a little faster than expected. He has the physical tools to challenge Ainge once he sheds the rust of his layoff and gets more comfortable with the offense.
"Jonathan Crompton has been really good to this point," Cutcliffe said. "He really just started from scratch. He'd been hurt and out, so physically and mentally he just didn't know (what to expect). He has been very eager. His work ethic is outstanding.
"He's got skills. He's throwing the ball better on a daily basis every time we're out here. He's got a nice release and he's less and less making big mistakes. That's his biggest nemesis right now – mistakes."
Hardegree played well in the first full-scale scrimmage but developed a sore arm that has limited him somewhat since then.
"Bo Hardegree ran into a problem with his arm that slowed his progress but he's been much better than I think everybody thought he could be," Cutcliffe said. "His tempo has completely changed and his demeanor's changed. It's been positive."
In addition to a quicker practice tempo, the new coordinator is instilling a greater sense of urgency this spring. It only takes one bad play to kill a drive, and he's working hard to emphasize that point.
"What the quarterbacks have to do – like our whole offense – is (ensure) no wasted plays," Cutcliffe said. "Until that full-time commitment to excellence is there we won't understand that you can't have bad plays and be successful. If we eliminate those we have a chance to be solid.
"How good we'll be, I don't know. But we've got to eliminate those errors first."