Tennessee Stat Book
You get the feeling Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer is tired of talking about Erik Ainge’s pinky.
“Erik’s fine,” Fulmer said after an hour-and-a-half long practice at the Neyland-Thompson Indoor Practice Facility on Thursday.
“He’s ready to go play football.”
Ainge broke the pinky finger on his right (throwing hand) at practice on Monday, but was back on the practice field throwing, at least in a limited capacity as early as Wednesday.
Fulmer has said all week he felt his senior quarterback would be ready to go when the No. 15-ranked Vols play at No. 12-ranked California at 8 p.m. Saturday (TV: ABC).
After watching Ainge on Thursday, nothing happened to change Fulmer’s opinion.
He seemed almost upbeat about the progress.
“Erik did fine,” Fulmer said. “He took every snap of practice and threw the ball well. I don’t see any issues with that.
“I just appreciate his toughness. We gave it a couple of days to settle down and it worked out well. We’re excited about it.”
During the early portion of practice open to the media Ainge appeared to throw the ball well and with some velocity despite having his pinky and right ring finger taped together.
The passes were of the 10- to 15-yard variety, but Ainge was on the money and seemed comfortable.
Fulmer also reiterated his confidence in backup quarterback Jonathan Crompton.
“I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and I told him I think we have the best backup quarterback in the Southeastern Conference,” he said. “I don’t know all of them, but I think we do.
“I would be comfortable with Jonathan. Don’t get me wrong. I want our starter to play and he’s a starter for a reason, but these couple of days have been good for (Jonathan).”