Crompton, a strong-armed quarterback who missed his freshman season of Tennessee football with a shoulder problem, is getting his first real taste of college competition this spring. Observing him, Ainge is reminded of his own early days in the Vol camp.
“I remember my first four practices here,” Ainge said, grinning softly. “I was hitting the other team in the chest with the ball and doing a lot of the same things he (Crompton) is doing right now. He does some real good things and, like all of us, he does some real bad things. That’s just being young.
“For four practices in, I think he’s looking pretty good.”
Tennessee’s only other scholarship quarterback, other than Erik Ainge and Jonathan Crompton, is Bo Hardegree. Ainge says Hardegree appears to be making significant strides.
“I think Bo’s gotten a lot better,” Ainge said. “He’s a fourth-year junior, and I think if he keeps doing the right things he’ll end up contributing.”
Speaking of contributing, Vol coaches are hoping Ainge can contribute some leadership now that he’s a rising junior. Can he fill the bill?
“Absolutely,” Ainge said. “Guys are listening to me now. I’m not trying to be the guy out there always screaming and yelling. I’m trying to lead by example – making good throws, making good plays, not turning the ball over, being vocal here and there.”
Although Tennessee is coming off a 5-6 season, Ainge says the coaches are instilling an upbeat mood this spring.
“We’re working hard but we’re having fun,” he said. “I think that’s the No. 1 job of a coach – how to make hard work fun – and I think they’re doing a great job right now.”