Ainge vs. noise

Before he can beat the Florida Gators, a visiting quarterback must beat the noise at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

Tennessee's Erik Ainge understands this. He experienced the mind-numbing decibel level at "The Swamp" in 2005.

"It's a challenge," the Vols' senior quarterback said this week. "Obviously, when you're doing everything at the line (in UT's no-huddle scheme), everybody needs to be that much more into it."

Many opposing coaches and players consider The Swamp to be the loudest stadium in America. Hearing a play call is difficult. Hearing a snap count is virtually impossible. That forces Tennessee to use an assortment of hand signals.

"Just getting the play called to the center and the guards is challenging – let alone to the backs and the tackles and the tight ends," Ainge conceded. "We need to do a good job with the operation – getting up there (to the line of scrimmage) so I have time to change what we're doing."

Although Tennessee lost 16-7 on Ainge's previous trip to Gainesville in 2005, he gained insights that should help him in Saturday afternoon's rematch (3:30 on CBS). The mere fact he has been there is a plus.

"It definitely helps," he said. "Whether you're playing at The Swamp, Baton Rouge, Athens or South Carolina, it's going to be loud ... it's going to be hostile. Obviously, it's a little louder at Florida than it is at other places but if we're on our game – we're communicating and doing what we're doing every day in practice – then we should be fine."

Tennessee already played one road game this season, its opener at California. Although the Vols lost, Ainge believes playing in front of a hostile crowd helped prepare Tennessee's players for the trip to Gainesville.

"Absolutely," he said. "The first couple of series we had to change how we were doing things. You can't simulate it in practice. Even with the crowd noise we use in practice, it's never quite as loud as it is at the stadium. That first couple of series you've got to get out there, get in the swing of things and get the operation going."

Vol offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said the fact Ainge has played a previous game at The Swamp will help "a lot" in Saturday's game. Cutcliffe isn't sure the Cal game was much help, however.

"This is the first real road test, as far as noise," the coordinator said. "The people at California would be upset if they read this, but there's no comparison, and we all know that. They tried hard out there but it's not even close."

To try and simulate the incredible decibel level at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Tennessee uses massive speakers to pipe in tape-recorded crowd noise during workouts.

"That's not so pleasant at practice but it's something we've got to do," Cutcliffe said. "It's hard to verbalize. We're having to do hand signals to make corrections to our players and get the scout team lined up and all of that."

When rain forces the Vols to work out indoors prior to a game at Florida, the coordinator quipped that the canned crowd noise inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex is so loud that he has to "load up on Advil before we go in there."

With the Gators opening defense of their 2006 SEC and national championships, Cutcliffe may want to take a fresh bottle of Advil to The Swamp this Saturday afternoon.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories