This is partially his fault since Erik Ainge played so poorly in the 2007 SEC Championship game against the LSU Tigers. And his major regression in 2005 also wasted a year. However, he was a great quarterback for Tennessee football who just never got over the hump.
Ainge’s rocky career began in 2004, and with a loaded offensive line and great running game, he looked like a superstar in the making. Thanks to his play in the middle of the season, the Vols were able to take control of the SEC East. However, he suffered a season-ending injury in November and wasn’t able to play in the title game.
After that, in 2005, a quarterback controversy, lots of pressure, lack of discipline from his teammates and expanded playbook wrecked his confidence. It became the worst season in 17 years for the school.
But a year later, with the arrival of David Cutcliffe, Ainge had a resurgence his final two seasons that were two of the best from a Vols quarterback. With no running game, Cutcliffe relied on him a lot in 2006, and in the process he set a single-season record for completion percentage for UT quarterbacks.
Then, in 2007, he still had a mediocre running game and lost his top three receivers. With no playmakers there, Ainge had to will the team to victory despite battling health issues, physical and mental, all season. He did just that, winning the East for the Vols and throwing 31 touchdowns as they won three games in overtime down the stretch. That efficient play was more than enough to earn him a spot on this list, and he deserves lots of credit.