Vols' QB quandary

A UT football program that featured consecutive marquee quarterbacks named Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning, Tee Martin and Casey Clausen has been reduced to two transfers and a parttime receiver who can't stay out of Phil Fulmer's doghouse.

C.J. Leak is a sixth-year senior who transferred in from Wake Forest. He has a world-class arm but tends to make mistakes when pressured. He has started four college games. His career stats: 47 completions in 110 attempts (43 percent) for 522 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Rick Clausen is a rising junior who transferred in from LSU. He has a good head for the game but is not as gifted as recent Tennessee passers. He has started one college game. His career stats: 5 completions in 12 attempts (42 percent) for 35 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception.

James Banks is a rising junior who did not take a snap at quarterback last season. His passing is erratic, and so is his behavior ... which is why he was suspended for the first half of the Peach Bowl game and suspended again last week -- this time indefinitely. He has started one college game. His career stats: 17 completions in 31 attempts for 277 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

By missing spring practice on suspension, Banks has blown any chance he might've had to play quarterback for Tennessee in 2004. That almost certainly means either Leak or Clausen will be behind center when the Vols open against Nevada-Las Vegas Sept. 4.

Perhaps one of the two transfers will prove adequate. If not, the Vols must turn to incoming freshmen Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge, and hope one of them can handle on-the-job training.

Regardless, it's a safe bet that the quarterback position won't be as strong in 2004 as it was from 1992-2003. That doesn't bode well for a UT squad that plays in the SEC East, which features two of the top quarterbacks in college football -- Georgia's David Greene and Florida's Chris Leak.


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