Scrimmage solves nothing

Wednesday night's fullscale scrimmage was supposed to clarify a few things about the 2004 Tennessee football team. It didn't. If anything, it just muddied the water more than before.

Senior C.J. Leak is supposed to be the No. 1 quarterback, yet he was upstaged by junior Rick Clausen, along with true freshmen Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge.

Seniors Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis are supposed to be the 1-2 punch at tailback, yet junior Gerald Riggs and little-used Corey Larkins were the most impressive backs on this night.

To borrow a line from Alice In Wonderland, things just keep getting ''curiouser and curiouser.''

Even Vol head man Phillip Fulmer seemed confused by Wednesday's proceedings, repeatedly reserving judgment until he has a chance to review the film.

Schaeffer completed 5 of 9 pases for 30 yards. He led all rushers with five carries for 54 yards, including an electrifying 40-yard scramble during which he cut back three times. Ainge made some dandy throws, finishing 7 of 15 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Clausen was 7 of 9 for 79 yards and a TD. Leak was 7 of 15 for 45 yards but called several timeouts out of apparent confusion.

Asked if he is any closer to naming a No. 1 quarterback, Fulmer shook his head and replied: ''Those two young ones are talented, obviously, but all of them (QBs) competed well. There were some exciting moments out there. We'll let everybody speculate for a while, then we'll figure it out for ourselves.''

The head man was just as evasive when asked about the Vol running back picture, which currently boasts a cast of thousands. Riggs, Larkins, Houston, Davis and David Yancey all have a shot at the first-team job

''We've got a crowded backfield right now,'' the head man said. ''I was really pleased with what Larkins did. The run he made (a 35-yard touchdown sprint early in the scrimmage) really set the tempo. Gerald did a good job, and Jabari ran hard.''

Noticeably absent from the coach's comments was Houston, who was UT's starting tailback in 2002 and 2003. Was the omission significant? Perhaps.

Larkins showed some explosiveness on Wednesday, popping outside for a 35-yard touchdown the first time he touched the ball. He got eight yards on his only other carry, finishing with two rushes for 43 yards. Riggs was nearly as impressive, running over tacklers en route to 31 yards on five carries. Davis carried once for 7 yards, freshman Ja'Kouri Williams seven times for 12 yards and Yancey twice for 4 yards. The least impressive back of the bunch was projected starter Houston, who carried seven times for minus-4 yards.

The most positive development of the scrimmage was this: After looking utterly inept in scrimmage No. 1 last Saturday, the offense bounced back with some big plays in scrimmage No. 2. Fulmer said the offensive players ''got their pride hurt pretty good the other day, and that's a good thing because they were more competitive today.''

Although he conceded that UT defenders ''didn't tackle as well'' as they did on Saturday, Fulmer seemed pleased that the attack unit finally showed some spark.

''Obviously, some exciting things happened out there,'' he said. ''We were better offensively. The skill guys made some plays tonight -- at running back and receiver.''

The head man qualified a bit, however, by noting that ''We held some things back defensively.''

Tennessee holds scrimmage No. 3 on Saturday and scrimmage No. 4 next Tuesday.


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