note – This is the first in a series of position-by-position Spring practice previews by renowned football expert and life coach, Lloyd Braun.
Erik Ainge was spectacular in 2006. As we here at LWS told you prior to the 2006 season, Ainge is a future first rounder. Going against public opinion, we stood our ground and withstood the Cromptonite blitzkrieg. In the end, nobody can deny that this blog was one of the few voices of sanity as we stood behind Erik and battled the selfish motives of of family, media, and lunatic message board posters.
Ainge started out the season on fire. Twice named the national player of the week by different organizations that name such things…………He was hot. Hotter, in fact, than Tennstud’s hot-tub on a College Football Party Saturday in October. Luckily, Erik was not as geigh as the aforementioned hot-tub. He held his ground under pressure. Such “experts” as LWSVOL told us that he would crumble when hit. Volstar bemoaned the fact that Ainge was not a ruff, tuff, mountain boy. The turmoil reached a boiling point at the Spring game when, prior to kickoff, the King of Cromptonland actually sought me out. I can only assume that he wanted to snuff out my voice of reason. But sanity and fairness prevailed!
A glance at the statistic provides a very impressive picture of Ainge’s season. Dig a little deeper and you will see that his season was even better than the stats show. Virtually no running game all season, including a pathetic rushing attack against Florida, put pressure on Ainge all season long. And he handled it like a pro.
Tennessee lost a solid group of receivers in Swain, Meachem, and Smith. But other that Meachem, nobody is going to be that difficult to replace. Austin Rogers will surprise, especially the reckruitniks who are disappointed that “a white guy” is starting rather than a 5 star “stud” (that word gives me the creeps). Briscoe will be a solid receiver once he learns that you are allowed to catch the ball with your hands. The Slickster (nickname copyrighted by LWS) apparently shows much promise in practice if he could stay helathy. The recently signed group of receivers has potential, although I do not expect them to takeover. The cupboard is not bare, although it certainly lacks the pure athleticism of Meachem and the leadership and professionalism of Swain. Smith was just strange.
Ainge must become THE leader of the 2007 Vols. He is the quarterback, the captain, and he must take this team upon his shoulders. I am convinced that he will lead us to our first SEC Championship since 1998.
To sum it up, Tennessee is in better shape at QB going into Spring practice than at any time since Peyton Manning left for Indianapolis.
2nd String – Nick Stephens – Raw talent, tremendous arm
3rd String – Jonathon Crompton – Ruff, Tuff Mountain Boy
4th String – Lucas Taylor
***spell check provide by Bob Flewis***