Ainge, Crompton or both?

As was the case last week, the Tennessee Vols have one healthy quarterback (Jonathan Crompton) and one gimpy quarterback (Erik Ainge). And, as was the case last week, both probably will play in this weekend's game.

"I think we're in a very similar place to what we were last week," offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said earlier today. "We're really uncertain, taking it one day at a time."

Cutcliffe hopes a decision can be reached in the next day or so as to who will start Saturday's game at Arkansas.

"The sooner we can get a good idea of where we're going," he said, "the easier it is for everybody."

Because of an ankle injury that was sustained in Game 8 vs. South Carolina and aggravated in the first quarter of Game 9 vs. LSU, Erik Ainge will (A) start, (B) play a backup role or (C) not play at all this weekend. Phillip Fulmer thinks it will be A or B.

"I think Erik will be available, either way," Tennessee's head man said.

Still, Fulmer said the situation is somewhat muddled.

"We need to see where Erik is today and real soon make a decision on what we're going to do for our team's benefit," the coach said. "Erik's doing everything he can to get himself back."

Ainge tried to play against LSU last Saturday, after scarcely practicing all week. He was not sharp, however, and reinjured his ankle when sacked late in the first quarter. Still, Fulmer liked what he saw.

"He did a really good job last week of showing a maturity and a toughness that you like to see – trying to get out there and lead the football team," the head man said.

Crompton played the final three quarters, hitting 11 of 24 pass attempts for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

"I'm very proud of what Jonathan Crompton did," Fulmer said. "He made some youthful mistakes during the game but he competed really hard. Other than one tipped ball that ended up being a turnover, he did a really good job of protecting the football."

Cutcliffe agreed, noting that "Jonathan did some good things. He's a very tough young man. It was pretty difficult circumstances to be thrown into. He was good. He'll continue to get better…. I was very pleased with the way he competed and his poise. His management of the ball game was outstanding."

Crompton's toughness was pretty good, too. On one second-quarter scramble he lowered his head and drove an LSU defensive back two yards backward. Fulmer is hoping the redshirt freshman doesn't make a habit of initiating contact.

"If it's a DB, that's probably OK," the head man said. "But he doesn't need to be taking on any defensive linemen."


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