Thursday Practice Report

KNOXVILLE - In a move that surprised plenty of people close to the program, Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer named his top two quarterbacks heading into the 2004 opener. The "co-number one-s" as Fulmer calls them bring a lot of youth and excitement to the roster. Following Wednesday's scrimmage, true freshmen Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer have risen to the top of the depth chart.

"The first thing I want to say is how much I appreciate C.J. Leak's attitude," Fulmer said. "I told him we were going to look at those two freshmen and that they were co-number one's and that Rick (Clausen) and C.J. were co-number two's."

"We had to get the reps to the guys that had some dynamics. Both of those freshmen are unusually mature. I'm sure it hurt his (Leak's) feelings. He's worked really hard and everybody on the team has great respect for C.J.. He thought about it for a few minutes and he came back and said, "Coach I'll play safety, I'll play linebacker, I'll play tight end or whatever I can do to help this football team‚."

The news comes on the heels of Schaeffer making a miraculous 44-yard run and Ainge hitting Bret Smith on a 60-yard touchdown during Tennessee's scrimmage last night. Clearly, both players have big play ability and Fulmer saw no reason to keep their skills on the shelf.

"Both of them are unusually mature," Fulmer said. "Both have been in passing offenses and understand the protections. They'll make freshman mistakes. This is not about anything long term. This is to win the championship this year. This is what we think we need to do at this point to win the championship."

Although Fulmer did not announce when he expects to name a starter, he did think it was important to pare the reps down for Ainge and Schaeffer.

"As soon as we can I'll name a starter and build our offense around what they can do," Fulmer said. "I feel like it's better to go ahead and narrow it right now rather than waiting until a later date. It could change again. We're very fortunate to have the situation that we have. I'm not looking at it as a concern or a burden at all. There can only be one quarterback or two quarterbacks getting the reps."

As for Leak and Clausen, they're not completely out of the picture. This situation just came down to who was best suited to lead the team the furthest and the fastest.

"Both have their pluses and both have their minuses," Fulmer said of Leak and Clausen. "The young ones have some dynamics. If they're the ones that can best lead us to a championship, that's the way we're going. If it's not we'll go to our next best option."

"It would be easy to sit here and be status quo," Fulmer said. "The right thing for our football team is to make this happen now. We felt like we needed to go in this direction to get the best players on the field."

SECONDARY CONCERNS: Fulmer mentioned the cornerback slot opposite Jason Allen was an open competition. RoShaun Fellows started at the position on Wednesday. However, Jon Hefney and Jon Wade are in the mix, too.


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