The case for Clausen

You can make a pretty strong case that Rick Clausen should start at quarterback in Tennessee's Sept. 3 football opener. For instance:

1. Statistically, he's had a superb preseason, completing nearly 80 percent of his passes in the major scrimmages. He was 10 of 13 for 159 yards in scrimmage No. 1, 10 of 15 for 180 in scrimmage No. 2 and 14 of 16 for 91 yards in scrimmage No. 3. His cumulative numbers for the three scrimmages show 34 completions in 44 attempts (77.3 percent) for 430 yards.

2. He's earned the respect of his teammates, hence his selection as a captain.

3. He's proved he can win, guiding the Vols to 35 points per game and three wins in his four starts last fall.

4. He's a fifth-year senior who has shown the maturity, savvy and poise to handle pressure.

On the flip side, Clausen has some negatives. For instance:

1. He lacks the arm strength to make some of the throws in UT's playbook.

2. He is not particularly nimble.

3. He throws a lot of short passes that do not stretch a defense vertically. This could enable opposing defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage and overplay the run.

Clausen won't dazzle anyone with his physical skills. Even so, a guy who can complete 80 percent of his passes – even in scrimmage action -- deserves serious consideration for the starting quarterback job.


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