And the starting QB is...

Erik Ainge has been compared to Peyton Manning. He's 6-6, weighs 215 and can make all the throws. But don't give the Tennessee quarterback job to No. 10 just yet.

No. 16 might have something to say about it.

Senior Rick Clausen made a strong case in the latest scrimmage, outplaying Ainge. Clausen completed 10 of 15 passes for 180 yards, hitting on 41 and 57 yard strikes. He hit his first four passes for 122 yards.

Ainge was 10 of 20 for 91 yards.

Each had a touchdown pass and an interception.

Asked if he could make a better case for starting than he has so far, Clausen said: ``I don't think so. I'm not the most gifted guy in the world, but I understand the offense and understand what's expected of the quarterback position and how to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers.''

Clausen did that with by completing a bomb to Robert Meachem and another to true freshman Lucas Taylor. He made two glaring mistakes late – taking a delay inside the 5-yard line and throwing an interception to safety Jonathan Hefney.

Clausen said he and Ainge are close in the grading department. Clausen said he feels more comfortable than ever in running UT's offense, but he's not going to fret over the depth chart.

``Whatever the coaches' decide, they decide,'' he said. ``I'm not going to worry too much about it anymore because I think I've done what I needed to do.''

Asked where he needs to improve the most, he said: ``Distributing the ball a little bit better. I had an open guy (during the Saturday scrimmage) and didn't hit him. We've got weapons all over the field. Our defense is going to be phenomenal. We just have to take care of the ball, move the ball and take what the defense gives us. As long as the offense doesn't make mistakes, we're going to win some football games.''

Ainge said he is doing a better job of not forcing the ball downfield and dumping it off to running backs.

``I feel like I'm doing a great job of laying it off, but I still need to do it more,'' Ainge said. ``The more you throw to the running backs, the more the defense sneaks up and then that opens it up downfield.''

Ainge said he's completed more passes downfield than Clausen but Clausen has more completions. Ainge can make throws Clausen can't, but Clausen looks smoother running the offense.

Ainge said the game is slowing down for him.

``Absolutely,'' he said. ``I feel when I go out there, I know what's going on -- where the ball is supposed to go before the snap, and based on coverage where the ball is supposed to go after the snap. It's a vision thing and coach (Randy) Sanders (offensive coordinator) is doing a great job of helping me read defenses and get ready.''

Asked about being the starter, Ainge said: ``Whichever way the coaches go, I think it's a good decision.''

* The TV kickoff time for three Tennessee games has been set: UAB at 12:30 p.m. on Jefferson Pilot on Sept. 3, Florida at 8 p.m. on CBS Sept. 17 and Notre Dame at 2:30 p.m. on NBC Nov. 5.

As a public service so you can make future plans – and at the risk of angering you in case I'm wrong – here is a projection of UT's other kickoff times.

At LSU on Sept. 24, ESPN at 7:45 p.m.

Ole Miss on Oct. 1, Jefferson Pilot at 12:30 p.m.

Georgia on Oct. 8, CBS at 3:30 p.m.

At Alabama on Oct. 22, CBS at 3:30 p.m.

South Carolina on Oct. 29, ESPN at 7:45 p.m.

Memphis on Nov. 12, pay-per-view at 1 p.m.

Vanderbilt on Nov. 19, Jefferson Pilot at 12:30 p.m.

At Kentucky on Nov. 26, ESPN at 7:45 p.m.

The one I'm most unsure about: Kentucky. If Memphis is having a great season, ESPN2 could select the game for a night kickoff.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories