Who'll play QB?

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer knows decisions lie ahead for the Vols offensive football staff heading into Saturday contest against the nation's total defense leader. Decisions such as who to start at quarterback when LSU visits Neyland Stadium for an SEC showdown.

"We're not sure just exactly how all of this is going to work out," Fulmer said, when asked Wednesday after practice about the playing status of Erik Ainge versus Jonathan Crompton. Ainge sprained his ankle late in Saturday's win at South Carolina and continues to work himself back into playing shape. How close Ainge gets to 100 percent by Saturday will decide the answer.

"It's been exciting, it's been interesting, a young guy getting a shot -- maybe," Fulmer said of the redshirt freshman Crompton. "It's a really good story in some ways."

Ainge has been of the best stories of 2006 in college football, flying to the top of the SEC in passing behind an accurate throwing arm and three of the nation's best receivers.

But should his ankle not fully mend, Crompton could get the call against a 6-2 LSU squad that leads the conference in sacks with 26.

"Our interest is getting ready to play the game and getting whoever's there ready to play," Fulmer said. "We'll decide that Thursday and Thursday night, or Friday.

"Whoever's out there, we'll be excited about playing. It's not like we don't have another guy. Jon's done well. Every time he's been in the ballgame, he's done fine."

Fulmer recalled LSU's most recent win over the Volunteers in the 2001 SEC Championship Game, when Matt Mauck replaced an injured Rohan Davey and rallied the Tigers to a 31-20 victory.

"I remember we played LSU and knocked Rohan Davey out and the guy who came in (Matt Mauck) just kicked our butt," he said. "Who knows?"


Tennessee senior James Wilhoit is one of 20 semifinalists for the 2006 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award, as announced Wednesday by the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Institute and Sports Commission.

Wilhoit has improved to fourth on UT's all-time scoring list with 293 points, a figure that ranks second on the Southeastern Conference active chart. He stands second in the SEC in points (8.0 per game) and field goals (1.4 per game), having converted 11-of-13 field goal attempts to go with 31-of-32 extra points. He is 4-of-6 from 45 yards and longer and has not missed in seven attempts inside 40 yards. Twenty-five of his 51 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.

The Hendersonville native recently was named a Draddy Award semifinalist and is a three-time SEC Academic honoree. Already a communications graduate, Wilhoit currently is working toward his master's degree in sports psychology.

For his playing career, Wilhoit is 52-of-73 on field goals with a career long of 51, and 137-of-140 on PATs for 293 points. He is riding a streak of 22 made field goals in his last 25 attempts dating to last season.

The Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award recognizes the top place-kicker in NCAA Division I-A football. Voters for the award include Division I-A head coaches, sports writers and sportscasters, conference representatives, professional kickers, and previous Groza Award finalists.

The three finalists for the Lou Groza Award are announced Nov. 20 and will be honored at the 15th Annual Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award Banquet on Dec. 5 at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott. The 2006 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award winner will be announced on Dec. 7 during the ESPN Home Depot College Football Award Show in Orlando, Fla.

The award, now in its 15th year, is named for NFL Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza, who played 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

2006 Lou Groza Semifinalists: Kenny Byrd, New Mexico; Arthur Carmody, Louisville; Gary Cismesia, Florida State; Mason Crosby, Colorado; Garrett Hartley, Oklahoma; Jeremy Ito, Rutgers; Brian Jackson, Ball State; Justin Medlock, UCLA; Taylor Mehlhaff, Wisconsin; Brandon Pace, Virginia Tech; Garrett Rivas, Michigan; Reagan Schneider, UTEP; Alexis Serna, Oregon State; Patrick Shadle, Syracuse; Ryan Succop, South Carolina; Sam Swank, Wake Forest; John Vaughn, Auburn; Andrew Wellock, Eastern Michigan; James Wilhoit, Tennessee; Jeff Wolfert, Missouri.

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