I understand that Crompton will be back next year and Ainge won't. But benching your starting QB merely to give his heir-apparent additional experience is one of the most bizarre ideas I've ever heard. And, trust me, I've heard some really bizarre ideas in my life.
According to The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Fulmer's response to the bench-Ainge suggestion following a one-hour practice on Saturday was as follows:
"I'm not going to take Erik out of the game. He's our best chance to win the game. Otherwise, he wouldn't be the quarterback."
I could see Tennessee giving Crompton a series or two. Heck, I thought the No. 2 quarterback should've gotten a series or two in most of the regular-season games. That isn't the Fulmer Formula, however. With the exception of 2005, when he spent the entire season trying to decide who his No. 1 quarterback was – Fulmer has never given his backup QBs much playing time.
I was one of many observers who thought Tennessee erred by allowing Peyton Manning to play almost every snap in 1997, forcing Tee Martin to open the '98 season with virtually no game experience. I had to reconsider my position, of course, when Tee led Tennessee to the 1998 national title.
Crompton already stands to enter his junior season with far more experience than Tee Martin had entering his junior year. With Ainge nursing an ankle injury, Crompton played the last three quarters vs. LSU and all four quarters vs. Arkansas in 2006. He has not seen meaningful action since, however. Barring another Ainge injury, Crompton won't see meaningful action in the Outback Bowl, either.
"We're not just going to randomly start playing two quarterbacks," Fulmer told The News-Sentinel. "This group wants to go and win the ball game … Not that Jonathan couldn't (win the game) if called upon, but that's not the way we do it."