''I don't worry about rumors,'' Schaeffer told Mike Griffith. ''I've been decided for a long time.''
Schaeffer started the first three games of 2004, then surrendered the first-team job to fellow rookie Erik Ainge. Schaeffer fractured his collarbone Oct. 30 against South Carolina and missed Games 9, 10, 11 and 12. He saw some backup action in Saturday's 38-7 Cotton Bowl defeat of Texas A&M, completing 1 of 4 passes for 11 yards.
Schaeffer conceded ''It was tough not playing more,'' but that he learned about reading defenses during his injury-induced layoff.
Head coach Phillip Fulmer told The News-Sentinel that Schaeffer is ''managing things better now than he was earlier in the season.''
Prior to suffering his collarbone injury, Schaeffer was instrumental in Tennessee's win at South Carolina. He came off the bench to ignite a listless Vol attack -- completing two of four passes for 57 yards and rushing six times for 14 net yards as the Big Orange rolled to a 43-29 victory.
Schaeffer's regular-season stats showed 17 completions in 33 attempts for 291 yards and two touchdowns. His completion percentage (51.5) was worst on the team but his passer-efficiency rating (139.53) was best on the team.
Schaeffer also ranked as Tennessee's third-leading rusher, gaining 76 net yards and averaging 2.5 yards per carry. If you discount 55 yards in sacks, he averaged an impressive 4.4 yards per carry.
Quarterback figures to be a loaded position at Tennessee next fall. Rick Clausen, who guided the Vols to a 3-1 record in their final four games of 2004, will be a senior. Ainge and Schaeffer will be sophomores. The Big Orange also has one of the country's premier high school passers committed -- strong-armed Jonathan Crompton of Waynesville, N.C.