Ainge missing top target Taylor
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge is disappointed that his top target, Lucas Taylor, isn’t with the Volunteers for the Outback Bowl, and he said his receiver came up just short of meeting a new NCAA rule.
“He’s as hard a working guy in the classroom as anybody we have on this team. I feel sad for Lucas. Everything he’s been able to do. To me that’s the hardest part, besides the fact we’re missing people, is that Lucas can’t be here,” Ainge said.
Taylor is among six Vols academically ineligible, and the receiver didn’t make the trip to Tampa, Fla., where No. 16 Tennessee (9-4) is preparing to play No. 18 Wisconsin (9-3) on Tuesday.
Taylor did not make the required grade for a course in his major.
Previously, players were eligible for bowl games as long as they passed only six hours in the fall.
Taylor is joined by starting linebacker Rico McCoy and defensive tackle Demonte Bolden on the team’s ineligible list for the bowl game.
Redshirt freshman linebacker and Huntingdon native Chris Donald is also among those not eligible for the Outback Bowl.
The junior receiver started 13 games this season despite a turf toe injury and had a team-high 73 catches for exactly 1,000 yards.
Taylor was four receptions short of a Tennessee single-season record for catches in a campaign.
“When you’re spending three hours at practice and two hours at meetings and when you’re hurt with turf toe like he was, you spend every ounce of free time you have in the training room, finding time to do homework, let alone study for tests, you end up with four to six hours of sleep a night,” Ainge said.
“I’m not making excuses for people. I’m just saying it’s very tough.”
Tennessee is listing Josh Briscoe and Austin Rogers as the starting wide receivers on the depth chart for the bowl game. Gerald Jones, Denarius Moore and Quintin Hancock also could play more, and Ainge has tight ends Chris Brown, Brad Cottam, Luke Stocker and Jeff Cottam as targets.
“If we go two tight ends and two receivers the whole game or five receivers, I think we have plenty of depth to be successful,” Ainge said.
Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com