Photo of Erik Ainge
Grade
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  • 6'6" Height
  • 225LBS. Weight

Overview

Erik Ainge showed tremendous promise during his freshman season with the Volunteers, but injuries caused him to miss eight games, as he never completed a full schedule in any of his first three years with the team.

The rangy quarterback battled through injury issues and presently ranked third in school history in pass completions (516), pass attempts (854) and touchdown passes (51). He is fourth in school annals with 6,308 passing yards and 6,107 yards in total offense.

Ainge made a long trip from the state of Oregon to the Tennessee campus in 2004. Prior to his arrival, he earned 2003 Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year honors and was named to the Prep Star All-American squad that year for Glencoe High School. The Northwest Nugget (awarded to top six athletes in Northwest U.S.) and All-State selection as a senior, Erik was also a first-team All-Metro quarterback as both a junior and senior.

He led the state in passing yards, completions and touchdowns during his final season, as he threw for 3,078 yards, 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His best game that year was against Aloha High, finishing 20-of-28 for 475 yards with five touchdowns and he accounted for 62 points in the first three quarters.

As a junior, Ainge passed for 2,554 yards and 15 touchdowns. He garnered Street & Smith's magazine All-American preseason honorable mention as a guard on the school's basketball team, adding second-team All-Metro honors, as he averaged 16.4 point per game as a junior. He also lettered in baseball, competing as a pitcher, shortstop and first baseman during his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

During his first season at Tennessee, Ainge started six of nine games, missing the final four games due to a right shoulder separation. The second-team Freshman All-American choice by The Sporting News added All-Southeastern Conference All-Fresh-man Team and SEC Offensive Freshman of the Year recognition. He added Academic All-SEC accolades, as he completed 109-of-198 passes (55.1%) for 1,452 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was held to 29 yards in losses on 16 rushing attempts, finishing with 1,423 yards in total offense (158.1 yards per game).

As a sophomore, Ainge appeared in eight games, starting vs. Louisiana State, Notre Dame and Memphis. He sat out three games, finishing with a career-low 737 yards on 66-of-145 tosses (45.5%) with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He turned the ball over three times on five fumbles, was sacked nine times for minus-78 yards and collected 673 yards of total offense on 169 plays (84.1 yards per game).

Ainge almost completed the 2006 season unscathed, but a right ankle sprain vs. South Carolina forced him out of action vs. Arkansas. In 12 games, he hit on 233-of-348 passes (66.3%) for 2,989 yards (third-best season total in school history), 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He fumbled the ball twice, was sacked 13 times for losses totaling 106 yards. He recorded two solo tackles and gained 2,887 yards in total offense on 374 plays (240.6 yards per game). He closed out the year as an Academic All-SEC choice and was a semifinalist for the Manning and O'Brien Awards, given to the nation's best quarterback.

Ainge suffered a broken pinky on his throwing hand in a late August scrimmage, but was recovered by the season opener. He would go on to have his best season at Tennessee, as he connected on 325-of-519 passes (62.6%) for 3,522 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Never known for his mobility, he lost 32 yards on 16 carries, finishing with 3,490 yards in total offense on 535 plays, an average of 249.29 yards per game.

In 43 games at Tennessee, Ainge started 35 contests. He connected on 700-of-1,210 attempts (57.85%) for 8,700 yards, 72 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. He rushed 82 times for minus-227 yards (minus-2.8 average) and a score, adding two solo tackles. On 1,292 plays, he amassed 8,473 yards in total offense. He was sacked 30 times for losses of 262 yards and lost seven of 15 fumbles.

Analysis

Strengths

Positives: Needs to add muscle tone, but has a frame that can carry at least another 10 pounds of bulk, good arm length and good-sized hands...Classic pocket passer who is very good at dealing with the mental side of the game, as he does a good job of scanning the field and attacking the soft spots, when he does not try to get too creative (will force throws because of confidence in his arm strength, but due to low trajectory, a good portion of his passes have been intercepted)...Smart, instinctive athlete with a good grasp of the playbook...Puts in the extra hours studying game film and is a respected team leader...Good program player with an easy-going personality...Lacks speed to escape pocket pressure, but is adequate driving back from center to his throwing point...Has a quick over-the-top release that helps him compensate for poor foot speed...Has marginal timed speed, but shows decent quickness driving away from center...Has adequate base and balance, but shows decent arm whip to get the ball out quickly...Puts good velocity on his deep throws and knows how to vary speed on those tosses to squeeze passes through tight spaces...Better when he stands in the pocket than when throwing from the outside hashes, as he does a nice job of scanning the field and making progression reads...Can hit his targets without the receiver having to make adjustments when throwing into the short area, but needs to do it with more consistency (more of a rhythm passer)...Has some hip rotation to put zip on his short throws, showing good touch in this area, especially on swing passes and screens...Utilizes all of his targets and is patient waiting for the play to develop, doing a nice job of looking off his primary target and locating his secondary receivers...Not really a vocal leader, but he has earned respect and is a good communicator who has control of the huddle...With his height, he is efficient looking over the line and making quick pre-snap decisions...Doesn't show consistency on the fade and deep routes, but does have the arm strength to air it out (needs to refine his foot mechanics)...Times his short-to-intermediate passes well, generally hitting receivers coming out of their breaks...Uses his over-the-top release to get the ball out quickly when the pocket is collapsing...Carries the ball chest-high and, when he plants to throw, he can unload the deep pass...In 2007, he showed much better timing on his throws, as he has seemed to have learned the concept of making good progression reads...Has decent touch on his vertical throws, but when he throws off the wrong foot, the ball will float. Negatives: Has a tall, slender frame, built more in the lines of a basketball forward than a football player...Has marginal muscle tone and definition with slender shoulders, but has a frame that can carry additional bulk...Displays marginal quickness on the move and loses accuracy when forced to throw when flushed out of the pocket...Does not have the speed to be a valid threat carrying the ball...Not the type of athlete that can play through pain and there are questions about his physical and mental toughness...Has good arm strength, but it is not always evident in his long throws, as he puts a lot of air behind those tosses and fails to place it along the outside shoulder of his target...Has an adequate feel for pressure and looks sluggish when sliding to avoid it...Lacks the loose hips to avoid the pass rush and does a poor job of setting his feet before throwing when flushed...Can put air behind his deep throws, but needs to step into those attempts better (will throw off his back foot at times), as he throws a lot of passes that are easily deflected due to low trajectory (had 51 throws deflected in 2007)...Has had a series of minor lingering injuries, raising durability concerns...When he stands in the pocket too long, it is because he fails to sense backside pressure...Must do a better job selling pump fakes; defensive backs don't usually bite...Needs to learn how to step up and out of the pocket, as his accuracy suffers on the move...Improved his foot mechanics as a senior, but when he fails to set his feet, he struggles with the follow through on his pass attempts...Will get into a rhythm where he misfires, but rather than hand the ball off, he will continue to fire into spots. Compares To: KEN DORSEY-Cleveland...With his lanky frame, Ainge is in dire need of a weight trainer to add bulk and strength. He lacks the foot speed to elude pocket pressure and his accuracy suffers when forced to throw after being flushed out of the pocket. He is a precise short-to-intermediate passer, but even though he puts a lot of air behind his deep throws, he fails to place it over the outside shoulder of his target. Because of his slight frame, he has had a fair share of injuries, but he is slow to recover, making one wonder if he has the physical and mental toughness to be more than a clipboard holder at the next level, much like Dorsey.
C
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.