Ainge learned a lot by watching

Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge learned to think outside the box this spring by watching his teammates scrimmage from inside the box ... the press box, to be precise. He's a better player as a result.

After completing just 9 of 26 passes for 90 yards with a touchdown and an interception in UT's initial scrimmage, Erik Ainge sat out the rest of spring drills following a relatively minor surgical procedure on his knee.

While his participation stopped at that point, his education didn't. He may have lost some valuable practice time but he gained some invaluable perspective.

Ainge sat with offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe in the Neyland Stadium press box during Tennessee's second spring scrimmage. He's convinced he benefited greatly from the experience.

"When you're up that high you can obviously see a lot better," Ainge said. "I can hear everything he's saying. I get a look at the defense."

The rising senior believes he gained valuable insights from seeing the scrimmage from Cutcliffe's perspective. He also benefited from hearing the cat-and-mouse aspect of the game from defensive coordinator John Chavis' perspective.

"I got a defensive headset on, so I could listen in to Chief, which was fun, too," Ainge said. "You can learn a lot by just seeing the defense and seeing what plays he's calling. Then, when I go out there and I see that defense, I already know what he (defensive coordinator) is thinking and why he's thinking that. That can really help me out a lot."

Although his stats for the initial spring scrimmage were mediocre, Ainge was throwing in 45 mile-per-hour winds. And, by all accounts, he played quite well in the practice sessions leading up to that wind-swept scrimmage. All things considered, he believes he had a very productive spring.

"I thought I performed well," he said. "I thought we performed well as an offense. Obviously, we were a little banged up and we were not running everything we'd be running during the season, but I thought we did well."

Although the offense struggled to move the ball consistently all spring, Ainge is optimistic about 2007. He believes the Vols laid a foundation during spring practice that will produce positive results in the fall.

"From a knowledge standpoint – myself and the team – we did a good job of picking everything up," he said. "I think it's just a matter of time before we really get clicking."


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