Great news on Schaeffer

Christmas came early for Vol football coach Phil Fulmer. The news that freshman quarterback Brent Schaeffer has been cleared to play in the Cotton Bowl may be the best present Fulmer could've gotten.

Rick Clausen will start at QB for the fourth game in a row. But Schaeffer, who hasn't played since he suffered a fractured clavicle Oct. 30 against South Carolina in Game 8, will get some snaps in a backup role. Schaeffer's athleticism and scrambling ability will provide an added dimension for a Vol offense that has been forced to carry the team latey while the defense struggled.

After a six-week layoff, Schaeffer is understandably rusty. Still, if he progresses as quickly in postseason as he did in preseason -- he won the Game 1 starting job with his superior work last August -- he should be a big benefit against Texas A&M.

Fellow freshman Erik Ainge remains a longshot to play in the Cotton Bowl. He separated his right (throwing) shoulder Nov. 6 against Notre Dame, and the Vols are wary of rushing him back into action too quickly. Since Schaeffer is a southpaw, the injury to his right collarbone should not interfere with his throwing motion.

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