No rush on QB decision

Head coach Phillip Fulmer will take a long look at quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen in Tennessee's Saturday night scrimmage but that doesn't mean he'll be any closer to naming a Game 1 starter by Sunday afternoon.

Ainge and Clausen have been bracketed No. 1 since spring, and there doesn't seem to be any real hurry to break the tie.

"Saturday's scrimmage is a big test for them," Fulmer conceded following Wednesday's morning workout. "But I can't say conclusively we'll do something (to alter the depth chart) on Sunday. It depends on the circumstances and how we feel when it's all over. We've still got some time."

Saturday night's scrimmage will be held precisely two weeks before the Vols' Sept. 3 opener against Alabama-Birmingham. Unless a clearcut starter emerges soon, it's possible UT will platoon Ainge and Clausen, much as it platooned Ainge and Brent Schaeffer last season.

"I don't want to say that yet," Fulmer said. "It's a good thing we have: They both could play if we choose to do that, whether we split the reps or whatever."

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders split the reps between Ainge and Schaeffer in 2004, and would be willing to do so again in 2005. It isn't such a novel idea anymore.

"The whole situation is old hat for the team and old hat for us," he said. "It doesn't make it any easier but we've been through it before."

Clausen and Ainge replaced one another at irregular intervals during last Saturday's scrimmage, sometimes alternating snaps in the middle of a series. This suggests the coaching staff might be taking a look at rotating them in and out of the lineup. Sanders seems agreeable to some sort of rotation but says that decision isn't entirely in his hands.

"If it gets to that point, I'm sure all of the coaches would sit down," the coordinator said, "but that'd be a call for Coach Fulmer right there."

Although both Clausen (10 of 13, 159 yards) and Ainge (11 of 17, 129 yards) threw the ball effectively in last weekend's scrimmage, Sanders said each made some significant mistakes.

"I think they were both shocked Sunday when they got their scrimmage grades that they weren't higher than they were," the coordinator said. "They're still not doing everything they need to do yet. Until they do, they're not going to be rewarded with good grades."

Perhaps Saturday night's scrimmage will clarify the coaching staff's decision. For now, though, no one seems to know what the decision will be … or even when it will be made.

"We don't have to (decide) right now," Fulmer said. "We're fortunate to have two guys ready to play. We're unfortunate we don't have a third guy ready. We're just going to play it by ear."

Apparently, UT is no closer to naming a No. 3 quarterback than it is to naming a No. 1 quarterback.

"It's between Bo (Hardegree) and Jim Bob (Cooter)," Fulmer said. "We'll probably travel ‘em both and see who keeps improving."


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