CUTCLIFFE was sitting out the 2005 season recovering from a triple bypass, he
traveled several times to the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on fact-finding
missions. Watching the Colts play, Cutcliffe studied a quarterback he had
coached, in his first go-round as Tennessee's offensive coordinator, masterly
run a no-huddle offense. Peyton Manning's ability to make play calls at the
line of scrimmage inspired Cutcliffe, who after speaking with Manning several
times began designing a no-huddle attack that would flourish in the college
game. This fall Cutcliffe, who returned to the Vols in November�'05, will
finally unveil his new strategy because he believes 6' 6'', 220-pound senior
Erik Ainge can make it hum.
everything you look for in a top-level quarterback," says Cutcliffe.
"He can make special throws, he's got touch, he's a leader, he's smart, and
he's well on his way to being a great one. He should do very, very well in our
reveal how often Tennessee will run the no-huddle--"It's too early to
tell," he says, "but it will be something our opponents had better be
prepared for"--though he acknowledges that the success of that look and the
Vols' season will depend largely on Ainge. The two have formed a strong bond:
In '06, his first season under Cutcliffe's tutelage, Ainge's completion rate
rose from 45.5% to 67.0%, his touchdown passes increased from five to 19, and
his QB rating swelled from 89.94 to 151.95. " Coach Cutcliffe made me give a
100 percent effort in everything I did, from film study to practice habits, and
I didn't always do that before," says Ainge. "He's meant everything to
who's helped shape Ainge is Manning, whose brain Ainge frequently picks on the
no-huddle. "The thing that Peyton tells me is that all I have to do is put
people in the right position and not always worry about running the perfect
play," says Ainge. "Sometimes, based on what the defense is doing, a
simple running play will work out just as good as a long pass play."
To learn the new
offense this summer, Ainge and his wide receivers spent up to eight hours a
week studying film from spring practice. Ainge doesn't know who his main target
is going to be this season--the Volunteers must replace last year's starting
wideouts, Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain, who combined to catch 120 passes for
1,986 yards--but expect talented senior tight end Brad Cottam, who last season
had 14 receptions, to have significantly more balls thrown his way.
"I just love
training a quarterback to make decisions at the line of scrimmage and to put
the game in his hands," says Cutcliffe. "This offense could be the
start of something big for us."