Will QBs learn from mistakes?

Tennessee's offensive coordinator got the answer to a big question regarding freshman quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer in last Saturday night's loss to Auburn.

Because of an early deficit, Randy Sanders noted noted that he ''had to put these quarterbacks in a few situations I didn't know if they were ready to handle or not.''

Obviously, they weren't ready. Ainge lost four interceptions and a fumble, while Schaeffer was 1-for-5 passing with an interception, as the Vols lost 34-10.

''I knew those two quarterbacks would make mistakes,'' Sanders said, ''but I didn't think we'd make six turnovers in a game.''

Tennessee's gameplan was to run the ball, thereby taking pressure off the frosh QBs. When Auburn came out massed to stop the run, however, Tennessee decided to loosen up the Tigers with a few passes.

Ainge struggled a bit in his first start, however, and Auburn led 24-3 in no time flat. At this point, Tennessee's gameplan was scrapped.

''When we allowed ourselves to get down like we did, we had to change the way we wanted to play to try and catch up,'' Sanders said. ''That validated my feelings of not knowing if they (Ainge and Schaeffer) were really ready to handle it. And they weren't.''

Clearly, the frosh QBs were not ready to direct an all-out passing offense. Now there's another question that must be answered: Are they ready for life on the road?

''We'll find out,'' Sanders said, referring to this Saturday's game at No. 3 Georgia. ''We've obviously worked to try and prepare for it. It's obviously going to be loud, so it'll be a little more difficult to communicate. More than the noise, though, it's the hostile environment (that's a problem) more than anything else.''

Although Ainge and Schaeffer clearly struggled vs. Auburn, Sanders says the two rookies did some things quite well.

''Really and truly, when we asked them to do what they were prepared to do, they played pretty well,'' the coordinator said. ''We missed an open guy (Tony Brown) and made a bad throw that got picked in the end zone. We made a bad throw on one other one that got intercepted. We had the one that got batted (at the line) and the two there late.

''That doesn't upset me at all. As long as they're doing what we ask them to do and what they read the play to do, I'm comfortable with going out and playing the game. Hopefully, we won't have to put in that situation again -- where they're being asked to do things whether they're ready to do them or not.''

The coordinator said two of Ainge's interceptions were due to ''miscommunications with receivers.'' Neither the passer nor the receiver was at fault. Each time the receiver read the defense and ran a route Ainge wasn't anticipating.

''The receivers did things that weren't all wrong; they just weren't exactly what the quarterback expected,'' Sanders said. ''I told them if they had done that last year year with Casey (Clausen) you probably would've been OK. But where we are right now, we can't do that to our quarterback.''

Thus, the coordinator doesn't blame Ainge for those last two interceptions.

''He got fooled twice,'' Sanders said. ''It looked like terrible throws but, if the receiver had done what he expected them to, he probably would've hit 'em right in the chest.

''It was a great learning experience,'' he added, pausing before concluding:

''We've got to MAKE it a great learning experience.''


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