Ainge 'fine' as Vols head west

The Tennessee football team wrapped up its preparations for the California game Thursday afternoon with a 90-minute workout inside the Neyland Thompson Sports Center.

The Vols walked through every aspect of special teams play in the early portion of practice before fine-tuning the offense and defense in 11-on-11 drills to close the workout. After practice, head coach Philip Fulmer reminded the team about the significance of being a Tennessee football player.

"I just challenged our guys to be the kind of football team that's representative of this great program that we have and the men that have worn the orange and white in the past; and to play with passion and energy."

Fulmer also stressed that the players forget about last year's victory over the Golden Bears.

"They get that message constantly," Fulmer said. "That's the way we operate. Last year is not going to affect this year that much either way. Megaphones, cowbells, Gator chomps, all of that doesn't matter if you're mature and tough, and we've taken that approach. They've got 11 on the field, that's all. Are they better than our 11?"

Question marks do remain for the Vols with less than two days remaining before kickoff. Fulmer mentioned the second team and the wide receivers as groups that will get their answers on Saturday.

"That's fun. That's what college football is all about," Fulmer said. "You recruit them, you coach them and develop them, and you see where they are. We're about to see against a good team where we are."

Quarterback Erik Ainge, who broke the little finger on his throwing hand Monday, practiced with the team and is still expected to start under center on Saturday night.

"Erik is fine," Fulmer said. "He took every snap in practice. He threw the ball well. I didn't see any issues with that. I appreciate his toughness. We took a couple of days to let it settle down, and it's worked out well."

On the injury front, Fulmer said he expects all 79 players on the dress roster to participate.

The Vols departed campus for Berkeley, Calif., shortly after the workout. The team will hold another walk through Friday afternoon in California's Memorial Stadium before resuming its regular game day routine on Saturday.

Tennessee's football season gets underway Saturday night at 5:13 p.m. Pacific time. The Vol Radio Network and ABC will provide coverage of the game.

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