One hero, one zero

Today's lesson in irony involves a couple of freshman quarterbacks who competed for the same job in 2004. Surprisingly enough, the winner of that battle is now viewed as a zero. Even more surprisingly, the loser of that confrontation is now viewed as a hero.

Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer competed vigorously for Tennessee's first-team QB job in the fall of ‘04. Ainge eventually prevailed, then went on to enjoy a superior freshman year. Schaeffer stewed on the Vol bench, then left school. Ainge was headed for stardom. Schaeffer was headed for junior college.

Now fast-forward one year:

Ainge quarterbacked Tennessee in 2005 and struggled mightily. Once regarded as the second coming of Peyton Manning, he is now seen as a flash in the pan.

Schaeffer quarterbacked College of the Sequoias in 2005 and performed brilliantly. Once regarded as a flash in the pan, he is now seen as the second coming of Michael Vick.

Schaeffer, soon to enroll at Ole Miss, is getting an incredible build-up from the national media this summer. Meanwhile, Ainge is getting a chance to experience anonymity. Schaeffer is hot; Ainge is not. That's the way it is in the fickle world of big-time college football. You can go from champ to chump – or vice versa – in the blink of an eye … certainly in the passage of a season. Ultimately, it all boils down to: What have you done for me lately? Ainge sizzled in '04, then fizzled in '05. Now he's yesterday's news. Schaeffer choked in '04 and smoked in '05. Now he's tomorrow's headline.

Perhaps the next few months will bring another reversal of fortune. Maybe Ainge will have a big year in 2006 and remind us all why we expected such great things of him 21 months ago. Maybe Schaeffer will stumble in 2006 and remind us all why he couldn't beat out Ainge 21 months ago.

In a round-about way, Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer are still competing.


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