Clausen Closes the Gap

Rick Clausen completed 10 of 20 passes for 105 yards in Saturday's fullscale scrimmage but it was what he DIDN'T do that probably enabled him to close the gap a bit on C.J. Leak, Tennessee's first-string quarterback.

He didn't make crucial mistakes.

The same couldn't be said for Leak. The sixth-year senior completed 13 of 23 for 154 yards but fumbled a snap, incurred an intentional-grounding penalty, threw an interception and put a couple more balls up for grabs that could've resulted in interceptions. This may have been due to the fact the defense utilized more blitzes and trickery than in two previous scrimmages.

Clausen, though less spectacular than Leak, was considerably steadier. And consistency is what Tennessee's coaches are looking for from their No. 1 signal-caller.

''I felt comfortable out there,'' Clausen said. ''The game's really slowed down the past few days. It's just a few details that we're having trouble with on the offensive side. We have a little inconsistency at times, and it shows. We make a good play, then two or three bad plays.''

After working mostly with the No. 2 offense in previous workouts, Clausen got considerable action with the first-team offense near the end of Saturday's scrimmage. That suggests he is putting some pressure on Leak.

''It was good, it was fun,'' he said. ''It's something I learned from. Now I have to go watch a lot of tape because there was a lot of little mistakes I made today that we can't make.''

Clausen, who transferred in from LSU one year ago, got precious few snaps in practice last fall. Now he's getting a crash course in Tennessee's offense. With spring ball half finished, Saturday amounted to a mid-term exam.

''It was very much a learning day,'' he said. ''The defense came out with a few more blitzes than they usually do but it's good to see everything. There's a lot to learn from this tape today.''

Tennessee's offense has not scored a touchdown on the No. 1 defense all spring, and that trend continued on Saturday. Why the struggles?

''We're still a little inconsistent on offense,'' Clausen said. ''But we're still learning. We've got some new guys at some key positions.''

Clausen said he ''threw it better at times'' than in last Saturday's scrimmage but that he had ''a few more mental mistakes than I had last week.''

While his arm strength has improved since last fall, it's still well below Leak's. Still, Clausen believes he can win the No. 1 job if he just manages the attack in a steady, capable fashion.

''I've just got to pay attention to the little details,'' he said. ''I have to get us in and out of the huddle, execute the offense and try to be an extension of Coach Sanders (offensive coordinator Randy) on the field. That's the biggest key for a quarterback right now.''


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