Meachem likes QB trio

Anyone who thinks Tennessee needs a clearcut No. 1 quarterback hasn't talked with sophomore receiver Robert Meachem. He's quite happy that Brent Schaeffer, Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen are battling for the job this spring.

''I love 'em,'' he said recently. ''We've got competition at receiver. They've got competition at quarterback, so you know whoever gets the job it's going to be deserved.''

Asked if he's ''getting there'' in terms of developing timing with three different QBs, Meachem smiled.

''You've got to feel like you're already there,'' he said. ''Whoever throws the ball you've got to catch it anyway.''

The fact Clausen rose from obscure third-teamer to Cotton Bowl MVP near the end of last season surprised a lot of people. Not Meachem.

'''He came from LSU, so he's been around the game for a while,'' the talented wideout said. ''He's a vet, so you knew he was going to come in and do what he was supposed to do. It takes some time to get adjusted to the game. Once he got adjusted, we knew he was going to do what he had to do.''

Lefthanded quarterbacks are rare, yet two of UT's (Clausen and Schaeffer) are southpaws. Asked if this requires any adjustment on the part of Vol receivers, Meachem grinned again.

''Catching passes is like catching from a jugs machine,'' he said. ''You've got to catch it anyway.''

Actually, catching Ainge's passes may be the most difficult because of the tremendous velocity he can put on the ball.

''He's matured a lot,'' Meachem said. ''His arm's getting stronger. His ball comes out like a missile.''

In addition to throwing with more velocity this spring, Ainge also is throwing with more confidence.

''He's crisper now,'' Meachem said, ''because he knows where it's supposed to go.''


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