Ainge weighs in on O&W game

Tennessee's Erik Ainge couldn't play quarterback in Saturday's Orange & White game, so he played assistant coach. Stationed on the sidelines at Neyland Stadium, he passed suggestions instead of footballs.

Asked what he did during the game, Ainge replied: "Just kind of help out with the QBs, keep guys motivated. Nothing too serious. The spring game's about having fun."

With Ainge sidelined, backup quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens shared the spotlight in the spring game. Weak pass protection led to seven sacks, four interceptions – three by Stephens – and an alarming number of incompletions. Crompton finished 13 of 26 for 113 yards, Stephens 14 of 29 for 127 yards.

"I thought they played good," Ainge said diplomatically. "I thought they played hard. Obviously, it wasn't perfect. I'm not going to judge anything they did too much – good or bad – because you've got to watch the film before you make those comments. But I think they both made a lot of progress this spring."

Asked what he learned from watching the action, rather than participating in it, Ainge paused thoughtfully before responding.

"You see a lot of things about demeanor," he said. "Coaches always talk a lot about demeanor, getting back to the line. If you're playing you can't really notice that stuff sometimes. But when you sit back and watch you realize certain guys are hanging their head after the play. They're showing they're tired. I think it helped me out a lot, kind of standing back and watching."

Ainge participated in Tennessee's first spring scrimmage before a nagging knee problem forced him to undergo surgery. Although he missed the second scrimmage and the Orange & White game, he feels like his spring was productive.

"It's not any different than any of our other scrimmages," he said of the O&W game. "It gets more hype and the fans come out – which is awesome – but it's no different than a lot of the scrimmages you have during the course of the spring."

Ainge said the preliminary stages of his rehabilitation have gone very well. He expects to increase the stress on his knee pretty soon.

"I'm probably a couple of weeks out," he said following Saturday's game. "I'll start running in the water next week. Everything's going good."


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