Clausen Eager For Opportunity Against Tigers

Tennessee quarterback Rick Clausen talks about Saturday's SEC title game and his rise from third string to starter.

Knoxville, Tenn.--For Tennessee junior quarterback Rick Clausen college football has been a whirlwind ride that he hopes hits a high point on Saturday when he gets the start against the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Football Championship Game.

The younger brother of former Tennesee quarterback Casey Clausen, Rick started his career at LSU as perhaps the future of the position for the Bengal Tigers. Two years later he was gone and headed for Knoxville looking for a chance for playing time. Clausen says that the experience at LSU was a good one, but just not the right one for him.

"I think the reason for leaving LSU at the time is because it wasn't fitting me anymore," Clausen says. "At the time I left there were seven or eight quarterbacks on scholarship and it seemed like we were all in a logjam. I think the oldest guy was a junior at the time so there were a lot of guys in there and only one football to go around. That's the one thing I realized.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity Coach Saban and Coach Fisher (offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher) gave me, but in the end it wasn't the best place for me. The offense and just the overall knowledge that Coach Fisher gave me at LSU was invaluable. I never really knew how smart of an offensive coordinator he was until I actually left. Just the teachings he showed me and the coverages and the overall game of football he taught me at LSU is something I'll always remember and cherish because he was such a great coach."

Rick Clausen

In addition to the help he's gotten from former LSU players and coaches in the past, Rick is also getting some up close and personal help this week as he prepares for the biggest start of his career. Not playing professional football at the moment, Casey has been in Knoxville since before the Kentucky game helping Rick to study Auburn and the game of football in general.

"He came in for the Kentucky game and me and him have been sitting down and watching a little tape on Auburn," Rick Clausen says. "We just kind of sit down and watch tape, go over things he sees and I see. We just communicate like brothers. He's got a real smart football mind so I take things he says very seriously. I try to get as much knowledge from him as possible."

The third-team quarterback to start the season for the Vols, Clausen sat back and patiently watched as Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer became fab favorites as true freshmen quarterbacks. All the while Clausen was an afterthought until the Notre Dame game. With Schaeffer already out with an injury, Ainge was hurt on the last play of the first half.

"You just have to be patient," Clausen says. "Things happen for a reason. That's something that I've always learned in life. A lot of times you don't know why things occur, but you just have to roll with the punches. When you face a little adversity it makes you a stronger person as you get older. I'm just happy with the way things have turned out the past two weeks and I'm really looking forward to this week."

Saturday's game is a rematch of one earlier in the season that Auburn won 34-10. Thanks to a balanced offense and a ball hawking defense that caused five turnovers, the Tigers cruised through the game and the season on the way to Atlanta. Although he didn't play in the first meeting, Clausen has an opinion on why his team came up short vs. the Tigers.

"The thing that happened in the Auburn game is that we came up against a good defense," Clausen says. "I think they played extremely well and I don't think we executed as well as we needed to against a good team. When you don't execute against a good Auburn defense you're going to score 10 points."

The reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for over 300 yards in last Saturday's win over Kentucky, Clausen says he and his team are excited about the chance to play Auburn again this season. With the SEC Championship and a BCS bowl bid on the line, this is the biggest game of the season for both teams.

"I'm very excited, but unfortunately it had to come with the loss of Erik and Brent," Clausen says. "I'm really excited about the opportunity that myself and the rest of the team have in front of us. This is one of the goals we had coming into the year and just to be able to have the opportunity to play against Auburn in the SEC Championship is really exciting.

"We have a great opportunity ahead of us," he adds. "I think that we've really been excited about and have strived for since the beginning of the year. One of our goals was to make it to the SEC Championship game. To play Auburn, which is a tremendous football team, is great and we're all excited."


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