(WVLT) - When the Vols kick off against Cal Sept. 1, UT's quarterbacks will have already played the Golden Bears this season -- not on the field, but on the video screen.
Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer has found a new way to improve his quarterbacks' field vision -- video games.
This year the Vols are partnering with XOS Technologies and EA Sports to use the PlayAction Simulator, a revolutionary software system which uses video-game-like graphics to help quarterbacks study opposing defenses and practice executing plays.
Tennessee is the first school to use the software. Albert Tsai, vice president of advanced research at XOS, says he hopes to introduce the program to every Division I school and NFL team in the coming years.
In addition to enabling UT quarterbacks to practice plays against opposing defenses, the software can also quiz the Vol passers on various aspects of each play, such as the opponent's defensive set and the correct receiving routes.
Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge says the software is an effective way to hone his skills when he isn't on the practice field or in the film room.
"It's a video game, so it's competitive," Ainge said. "You can't compete watching film. You get a couple guys in here and they can compete with each other like they would on the practice field."
When it comes to deciphering opposing defenses, Ainge says the software will help his field vision.
"I can go play the video game and I can see it over and over again," Ainge said. "It's just another tool to help you see tendencies and play the game."
Tennessee Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton says he's pleased that the Vols are the first football team to use the software.
"We're extremely excited to further position the Volunteers as trendsetters in the collegiate market by advancing our training techniques with 3-D enhancements," Hamilton said. "The University of Tennessee already has an outstanding football team and program, but by taking our training to the next level with virtual-reality resources we're poised for even greater success."
While nothing replaces on-field repetitions, Ainge says the software will reduce the physical sacrifices he has to make to learn an opponent's defensive strategy.
"There are a lot more mental reps you can get," Ainge said, "without having to go out there and do it."