Thursday, August 30, 2007

SF Chronicle: What's real, what's not from ol' Rocky Top

Rusty Simmons, Chronicle Staff Writer

Here is the link.

The throwing-hand pinkie of Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge was sore, then jammed and then broken.  It happened Monday while taking a snap, or maybe it occurred on a handoff. Some players claim to have known the severity of the injury that day, or at least by Tuesday, but somehow the break wasn't revealed by X-ray until Wednesday.

Ainge is definitely going to play. At least, coach Phillip Fulmer hopes so. Sophomore Jonathan Crompton will be ready if Ainge can't finish what he starts. There's a font of misinformation coming out of the Tennessee camp, and it's probably by design as the team prepares for Saturday's national showcase game against Cal in Berkeley. On top of his obsessive study of game video, Cal coach Jeff Tedford also reads every piece of information he can find about opponents. "We get all the articles from all the papers," he said. "We're always looking for something to help us." Fulmer is providing plenty of fake fodder, and his players are helping. Ainge talked around the injury when addressing Tennessee newspapers Wednesday.

"I'm not concerned about being able to play and being ready to play," he said before quickly turning his tone. "You never know. You're always one play away. Anything could happen, but right now I feel confident that I'll be ready to play." Ainge was 11-of-18 for 291 yards and four scores in the Volunteers' 35-18 win over the Bears last season. He had an ankle injury that limited his practice time before the LSU game and played only three series. He missed the entire Arkansas game the following week. Crompton filled in by going 27-of-58 for 357 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, but Tennessee lost both games. The cant doesn't stop there.

"We'll be looking for a lot of answers to a lot of questions Saturday at California," Fulmer said. "I'm anxious to see our team on the field against somebody else." All-SEC punter Britton Colquitt has a strained quad in his kicking leg. "Certainly I'm hopeful that Britton will be 100 percent when we get to game time," Fulmer said. "My first thought right now is that he'll do only the punting. Extra points, field goals and kickoffs will be done by Daniel Lincoln." The offense reportedly has toyed with some no-huddle and double tight end sets and has a flock of inexperienced receivers. "People are saying that their receivers are young, but they're still Tennessee," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "They don't recruit bad players, so they'll be really good." Fulmer has also relayed and expounded concerns about the defensive line and secondary.

"The defensive front, as I've said a number of times, has been a concern, particularly defensive tackle," he said. The secondary "is probably an area that we're going to be the most tested in. We'll find out a lot about where we are there." As part of the plan, those answers won't come until Saturday.

Briefly: Starting fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou, who sprained his medial collateral ligament, practiced at full speed Thursday and is expected to play Saturday. ... In the interest of public safety, Gates 2-4, the Memorial Stadium entrances closest to the tree-sitters will be closed Saturday, a Cal spokesman said. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and use the north or south entrances.

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