QBs await 'next big step'

Now that freshman quarterbacks Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge got through Step 1 -- directing Tennessee's offense with no fumbled snaps, no delay penalties and only one turnover in the opener vs. Nevada-Las Vegas now they're looking to take Step 2 in the coming weeks.

So, what exactly is Step 2?

''The next big step is being able to execute without the run game,'' Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''The run game took so much pressure off of them (in Game 1), and it's obviously not always going to be that good. How do they handle things when the run game isn't carrying the load for them?''

Sanders was pleased by the performances of Schaeffer and Ainge in the opener. Still, he knows the gameplan they had to digest for UNLV was baby food compared to the steak and potatoes they must swallow to be ready for Florida in Game 2.

''It's taking it to a whole new level; there's no doubt,'' Sanders said. ''I told 'em it was a good start but this thing's a marathon, not a sprint. We just got out of the starting blocks and didn't fall down. Now we've got to see if we can make it down the straight-away.

''The speed of the game's going to pick up and the intensity's going to pick up. They may be cussed a little bit more at the line of scrimmage ... may be called a few names they've never heard before. Hopefully, they'll respond the right way.''

Fans may recall that Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst repeatedly burned Tennessee in the Peach Bowl last December by stepping to the line of scrimmage, assessing the Vol defense, THEN calling a play. Tennessee's offense used a variation of this system against UNLV. The quarterback would step to the line of scrimmage with 15 seconds or so left on the play clock, then look to Sanders on the sidelines. The coordinator would assess the defensive alignment, then check to a suitable play using hand signals. Whether that system will work as well against Florida as it worked against UNLV remains to be seen.

''There's things you can do (to combat this system),'' Sanders said. ''Obviously, the defense can check (to another alignment), just like the offense can check. We'll probably see that at some point.''

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