A couple of hours before the players boarded their plane, the Tennessee football program learned a couple of more reasons to feel confident about Saturday's game.
Starting quarterback Erik Ainge had his heaviest workload of the week Thursday after breaking his pinkie finger on his right (throwing) hand Monday. The senior threw several short and long passes to receivers and was accurate on the majority of the throws during the first 30 minutes of practice, when the media is allowed to watch workouts.
Ainge also had his pinkie finger and his ring finger taped together and did not appear to be in any pain. Coach Phillip Fulmer still expects Ainge to start the Vols' season opener at Cal on Saturday. "Erik is fine," Fulmer said. "He took every snap in practice. He threw the ball well. I didn't see any issues with that. I appreciate his toughness. We took a couple of days to let it settle down, and it's worked out well."
Kicking update: The Vols got some more good news on the injury front. Kicker Britton Colquitt has been resting a quad injury but participated in workouts on Thursday. Daniel Lincoln will handle placekicking duties while Colquitt will only punt. "If Daniel wasn't there, I asked (Colquitt) if we had to come down and kick a field goal to win the game at the end," Fulmer said. "He said, 'Coach, I'd kick it if I had to kick it left-footed,' and I believe him."
Terrific teens: The freshmen continued to leave positive impressions on the coaching staff, and more than a few are expected to see playing time Saturday. Freshman Denarius Moore will handle kickoff duties with junior Arian Foster. Fellow freshman Eric Berry will see action at cornerback and could line up against All-America receiver DeSean Jackson.
"It's probably as good of a freshman class we've ever had here as a whole," Fulmer said. "Now I don't know if there's a Peyton Manning or a Jamal Lewis in it, necessarily, but man, what a good group of young men. They're talented and skilled."
TV info: UT's home opener against Southern Miss on Sept. 8 will be televised on a pay-per-view basis. Fans can contact their local cable company for ordering information. The game is also expected to be available to DirecTV and Dish Network subscribers on a pay-per-view basis. Randy Smith will handle play-by-play duties with former Vol quarterback Pat Ryan as the analyst.
Former player dies: Leonard Coffman, the last surviving starter on Tennessee's 1939 football team coached by Robert Neyland, died Thursday. He was 92. Coffman, a fullback who was born in Middlesboro, Ky., died in Greeneville. Coffman played on the undefeated 1938 team that won a national title and on the 1939 team that didn't allow a point until losing to USC 14-0 in the Rose Bowl.