After a horrendous 2005 season, Erik Ainge had an incredible rebound in 2006 to set a Tennessee football record for completion percentage, thanks in large part to David Cutcliffe. Entering his senior year, though, he had to replace all three of his top receivers, including record-setting All-American Robert Meachem. Then Brad Cottam, the reliable, go-to tight end, got hurt.
But thanks to a very good pass protecting offensive line, Arian Foster, and reliable fundamental receivers like Lucas Taylor, Ainge was able to overcome all of that. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,522 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while only taking four sacks.
Ainge didn’t have a lot of help, and the defense had numerous issues, giving up 45, 59 and 41 points in their three regular season losses. But he kept the team together. As a result, they overcame those losses to win the SEC East and score three wins that came down to the wire, including two in overtime.
Notably, Ainge threw for seven touchdowns in the Vols’ four-overtime win over the Kentucky Wildcats at the end of the regular season to secure the SEC East. Despite all of that, Ainge got no recognition. This was Tim Tebow’s period with the Florida Gators, so Ainge didn’t even make All-SEC. However, he was a very efficient quarterback and led the last 10-win team on Rocky Top.