Phil praises Clausen's competitiveness

Phillip Fulmer has a lot of questions about his UT football team that need to be answered this preseason but one thing he'll never question is the heart of his quarterback.

Senior Casey Clausen proved his mettle in last year's Arkansas game, when he played the final minutes of regulation and six overtime periods with a fractured collarbone and a concussion. After missing just one game (Georgia), he returned to the lineup against Alabama just three weeks after suffering injuries that might have sidelined a lesser man for the season.

"Casey Clausen is an incredible competitor,'' Fulmer said recently. ''He showed courage to step in last year and keep playing despite injuries. He's smart, tough and has the respect of his teammates. Last year he could've said, 'Hey, you guys have got it for the rest of the year. I'll see you in January. The season's not going great and I'm hurt.'

''But he refused to do that. He intended fully to play against Georgia the week after he got hurt against Arkansas. He got back as soon as he could and was very limited physically in terms of mobility but showed an awful lot of courage and toughness. I think that will pay great dividends for him because his team respects him so much. He's smart, tough, sees the field, understands our offense, makes all the throws.

''I think we've got a really fine senior quarterback. When you're going on the road -- and we've got some big games on the road -- that is a good place to start ... a tough quarterback. There's not many situations he's going to be intimidated by.''

Although Fulmer feels quite comfortable with his No. 1 quarterback, the same cannot be said of his No. 2 quarterback. That situation remains unsettled.

"The identity of the No. 2 quarterback is still up in the air,'' Fulmer said. ''We are trying to give James Banks an opportunity, but he also needs to spend time at receiver. C.J. Leak is getting some work.

''Both Banks and Leak are looking better, but neither is the answer as things now stand. There's a possibility we will play both of them.''


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