Scrimmage in retrospect

I had the great fortune to sit by Dewey ''Swamp Rat'' Warren during most of Wednesday night's Tennessee football scrimmage. Dewey, of course, played quarterback at UT, installed the potent passing attack at Brigham Young University and now hosts his own sports-talk show on Knoxville's WKVL (AM-850).

Dewey probably has forgotten more football than most of us will ever know, so I was eager to get his take on the Vols' ongoing quarterback derby. I'm sure you're eager to hear it, too. Well, here it is:

Turning to me near the end of the scrimmage, the Swamp Rat mused: ''I thought I knew somethin' but I don't know nothin'.''

I feel the same way. I suspect Phillip Fulmer and Randy Sanders do, too. Just when you thought you had a handle on this quarterback situation, the entire outlook changed.

I was convinced that hell would freeze over before Fulmer would start a true freshman at quarterback in Game 1. I figured senior C.J. Leak would start the opener by default. Now, like Dewey, I'm thinking the unthinkable: I'm considering the distinct possibility that freshman Brent Schaeffer might answer the bell in Game 1. Moreover, I'm thinking fellow frosh Erik Ainge just might be No. 2 on the depth chart by then. Dewey's comments indicate he's entertaining the same thoughts.

Schaeffer has thrown two interceptions and fumbled twice in Tennessee's first two scrimmages. He has offset these bad plays, however, by making a bunch of good plays. The bottom line is this: The offense is most productive when Schaeffer is behind center. Isn't that the ultimate test of a quarterback?

As impressive as Schaeffer is, Ainge is only a half-step behind him. His release is the quickest I've seen since Tony Robinson and his arm strength is on par with Robinson's. Ainge reminds me a lot of T-Rob, except he's White and taller.

To be honest, I gave Rick Clausen no chance to win the starting job at quarterback but now I'm rethinking that. I thought he had a mediocre scrimmage Wednesday night, then I checked the stat sheet and saw that he completed 7 of 9 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. The problem is, he lacks the arm strength to stretch a defense, and that enables opponents to crowd the line of scrimmage and shut down the ground game ... as UT learned last year.

Even unsung Bo Hardegree is making a move. The lanky Jackson native moves well in the pocket and throws a nice ball, particularly the deep ball. I get the impression, though, that Fulmer does not consider Bo a serious player in the QB race at this time.

That brings us to C.J. Leak. He was the odds-on favorite entering preseason drills but he hasn't done anything thus far to establish himself as the No. 1 quarterback. He makes some good throws and some bad throws. He makes some good decisions and some bad decisions. He looks poised one minute, rattled the next. When Jayson Swain dropped a catchable third-down pass near the end of Wednesday night's scrimmage, Leak appeared terribly frustrated as he left the field. Keeping your cool is vital at the quarterback position, and Leak seemed to lose his cool on that occasion.

The tailback situation is just as muddled as the quarterback situation. Cedric Houston was supposed to be ''The Guy'' but he has done nothing this preseason to suggest he's the best option. Jabari Davis has been equally unproductive (11 carries for 20 yards in two scrimmages).

Conversely, enigmatic Gerald Riggs is starting to look like the player his dad was. If the season started today, I think he'd be the No. 1 tailback. But a strong case can be made for Corey Larkins, who is showing a big-play dimension (eight carries for 80 yards in the first two scrimmages) that Tennessee sorely needs. Then there's David Yancey, the spring upstart who Fulmer promises will be a significant contributor this fall.

So what does it all mean?

Don't ask me. Like the Swamp Rat said: I thought I knew somethin' but I don't know nothin'.

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