No-huddle intrigues Ainge

Tennessee's quarterback is convinced that the no-huddle offense will be no problem this fall … except for opposing defenses.

Erik Ainge missed most of spring practice following minor knee surgery. Before he was sidelined, however, he got enough experience in offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe's new no-huddle attack to feel certain it will keep the Vols on the move and keep their opponents off balance this season.

"I think it's going to help, whether we're in it, out of it or in and out of it during the game," Ainge said. "If we go through three quarters and don't do it, then – boom – the fourth quarter hits and we're in such good shape that we're in no-huddle, I think that can definitely be to our advantage."

Asked if that is the plan – using the no-huddle attack intermittently to surprise foes – Ainge shrugged.

"I don't know," he said. "That's Coach Cut's call. If we're great in it, then obviously we could do it. It just depends on how it all shakes out."

Ainge set a program record by completing 67 percent of his passes last season. Still, the Vols finished 9-4. That's why he's only concerned with winning games this fall. If Tennessee wins big, he figures his performance will get plenty of recognition.

"The more games you win, the better everybody looks," he said, adding that he'd rather be "throwing for 200 yards and winning (than) throwing for 450 yards and you're going 9-4 or 7-5."

That's one of the lessons Ainge has learned in his first three seasons as Tennessee's quarterback. He ranks one lesson he picked up last year above all the rest.

"The biggest thing I learned was how to get the ball out of your hand quickly and just get completions," he said. "With the athletes you have in the SEC, the faster you get the ball out of your hand, the better you make the offensive line look, the better the running backs are, the better the receivers and tight ends are … the more time they've got to make people miss."

Ainge has a powerful arm, and he tended to rely too heavily on it earlier in his career. He now realizes that a four-yard lob that's complete accomplishes a whole lot more than a 20-yard laser that falls incomplete.

"If it's first-and-10 and they're dropping deep, just lay it off early," he said. "Don't try to throw the ball down the field. Just get it to the running back and let him do something. Second-and-six is a lot more manageable than second-and-10."

Ainge has added roughly five pounds of muscle since the 2006 season. He believes the additional strength will help him avoid the kind of injuries that have hampered him in previous years.

"I feel a lot stronger," he said. "You can't really tell how it's going to help until you get out there and get popped a couple of times … then you can kind of tell how the strength helps. But I definitely feel stronger."


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