With Tennessee averaging a meager 19 points per game, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders recently was asked if Clausen's physical limitations have made it easier for opposing defenses to contain the Vols.
"I don't think they worry about Rick's mobility very much," Sanders conceded. "Not that Erik (Ainge) would scare anybody to death but he's obviously more mobile, especially with Rick's ankle like it is right now."
In addition, Ainge has a powerful arm that is capable of making throws Clausen cannot.
"Erik's got the big arm," Sanders said. "If there's a crack or a crease down the field, he can get the thing in there."
Like most strong-armed quarterbacks, though, Ainge has a tendency to occasionally attempt ill-advised throws that have no margin for error.
As Sanders put it: "Now when you get that crack or crease and you throw it in there and it's not perfect, you get it intercepted."
Ainge threw three interceptions in Tennessee's first 2½ games, including a disastrous blind fling from his end zone that LSU returned for a touchdown. He hasn't taken a snap in the 2½ games since. With Clausen injured and struggling to put points on the board, though, Sanders says Ainge will get a chance to play Saturday at Alabama.
When Ainge beat out Clausen for the Game 1 starting job, Sanders cited arm strength and mobility as the key factors. Five games into the season, those attributes may be proving decisive again.
"We felt going in we would be good enough around the quarterback that the quarterback wouldn't have to make plays and be special," Sanders said. "But right now we're not getting those plays made."