UT to platoon frosh QBs?

Like many of the reporters covering Saturday's scrimmage, freshmen Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer think they could make a pretty productive quarterback platoon for the Tennessee Vols this fall.

Ainge is a pure pocket passer, Schaeffer an electrifying scrambler. They complement one another's strengths so well that having to prepare for both styles would be a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare. As a result, playing both rookies in Game 1 would have its advantages.

''I wouldn't doubt if that's something we did see,'' Ainge said. ''That's the best way to find out who will be the better quarterback ... in a game. You can tell a lot from practice but some people are gamers.''

Schaeffer also is agreeable to a two-man platoon featuring himself and Ainge.

''If that's what the coaches have in mind for us, and we're winning, I'd be happy with it,'' he said. ''I'm all about winning.''

The two freshmen were elevated to share the No. 1 spot at quarterback earlier this week, leapfrogging senior C.J. Leak (since moved to safety) and junior Rick Clausen. The news stunned media and fans alike, but the rookies themselves took the news in stride.

''I'm not really surprised,'' Schaeffer said. ''Coach (Randy) Sanders has done a great job of teaching us everything. He's a great coach. He's the one who got us this far.''

Upon hearing of his promotion to co-first team, Schaeffer called his parents back in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

''They were kind of surprised,'' he said, ''but they had confidence in me.... They're happy for me but they were going to back me up, whichever way it went.''

Ainge seemed more surprised by the timing of the announcement than the gist of it.

''It came pretty fast,'' he said of the news. ''We expected it but we didn't expect it, you know?''

Asked if he anticipated the quarterback situation to play out the way it has, Ainge nodded.

''In my head, yeah,'' he said. ''That's what I always dreamed of ... if that's what God wants. Everything happens for a reason.''

Being elevated to first-team can be nerve-wracking, yet both rookies seem generally unaffected.

''I just go out there to play and have fun,'' Schaeffer said. ''I'm still eager. Even if I was last on the depth chart, I'm still hungry.''

Even as they competed with the talented freshmen, Leak and Clausen did everything they could to help their first-year competitors.

''I can't even begin to explain how much C.J. and Rick have helped me,'' Ainge said. ''Coach Sanders is a great coach but C.J. taught me almost as much as anybody. He showed me a lot of little things, and Rick knows the whole offense.''

Though generally upbeat, Schaeffer gave the thumbs-down to the green jersey he had to wear to protect him from being tackled during Saturday's scrimmage. He broke a 34-yard run in scrimmage No. 2 but was held in check during scrimmage No. 3.

''I don't like the green jersey,'' he said, ''because they (officials) blow the whistle too early.''

UT's official statistics showed Ainge 12 of 18 for 125 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. They showed Schaeffer 14 of 22 for 186 yards and a TD with no interceptions. Despite his imposing stats, Schaeffer said he made several mistakes.

''I'm still learning,'' he said. ''I'm making mistakes but I'm patching 'em up every day and working on everything with Coach Sanders. It's coming along.''

Asked about the heavy downpour he had to deal with near the end of the workout, Ainge conceded that he saw plenty of precipitation growing up in Hillsboro, Ore., but ''it doesn't rain like this in Oregon. We'll get a sprinkle here and there but not a monsoon like you get here.''


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