Clausen limping along

The quarterback match-up for Saturday's Tennessee-Georgia football game resembles a re-enactment of "The Tortoise and the Hare" fairytale.

On one side is Georgia's D.J. Shockley, who might be the fastest and most elusive quarterback in the NCAA. On the other side is Tennessee's Rick Clausen, who is slow as molasses on his good days and SLOWER than molasses at present.

Clausen showed up for Tuesday's player interviews with a walking boot on his injured ankle and an even slower gate than normal. Obviously, his mobility will be a concern Saturday against the swarming defense of the fifth-ranked Bulldogs.

"Rick's mobility was a bit of a concern to begin with, you know," Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer quipped. "This (ankle injury) limits us a little bit more, obviously."

Clausen generally manages to offset his lack of mobility and arm strength with a good head for the game, excellent touch and great leadership skills. Those attributes will be tested by Georgia's aggressive defense.

Fulmer praised Clausen for "his knowledge and understanding and ability to use the field, get the ball out quick and those kind of things," but conceded that the ankle injury puts the other Vols in a position where they "have to do a great job of helping him … and he has to do a great job of executing, as far as using the field.

"He's not going to outrun anybody."

With Clausen limited by the injury, Saturday's game could provide a chance for backup QB Erik Ainge to get some meaningful snaps. Right, coach?

"He's one play away from being the starter anyway, and that's the way he has to prepare," Fulmer said, effectively ducking the question. "Our plan right now is to go with Rick. Rick has a chemistry with the guys. Erik will have that in time.

"Anybody that's ever been to practice will tell you Erik is the better prospect but Rick is a get-it-done kind of guy. He has great courage and great intelligence. He's not a bad quarterback. He's a good quarterback."

Sophomore Bo Hardegree and junior walk-on Jim Bob Cooter have battled for the No. 3 QB job all fall. Fulmer has carefully avoided tabbing one over the other, and he's still doing so. When asked by a youthful reporter on Tuesday who the No. 3 guy is, the coach deadpanned, "Are you interested?"


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