Sanders likes backup QBs

With Casey Clausen clearly established as the No. 1 quarterback, Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders has the luxury of giving longer looks to backups C.J. Leak and freshman James Banks in UT's early workouts this preseason. How much does that help?


''It DOES help,'' Sanders said. ''Obviously, we're going to make sure Casey gets all the reps he needs to be where we need him to be. We don't need him to stay where he is; we need him to continue to get better, and that requires reps. But that (Casey's experience) does allow us to spend more time with C.J. and James. We're able to work with those guys, getting them up to speed and ready to compete.''

Asked what ultimately will determine who is the No. 2 quarterback, Sanders answered without hesitation.

''There's a lot of things that go into it,'' he said. ''Obviously, he's go to be able to run the team -- get guys in the right places and execute our offense. That's the first thing he has to do ... handle the offense so that we're not making mistakes and killing ourselves.

''After that, if he can make plays to help us win, that's the next ingredient. I think we've got two players who will be able to do that. I'm not sure they're there right now but they will be able to do that in time.''

Sanders is watching Leak closely for signs he is fully healed from major reconstructive knee surgery which sidelined him for nearly two years. So far, the outlook is positive.

''I think his knee is fine,'' Sanders said. ''He feels really good about it. He's decided not to wear his knee brace anymore, so he's obviously overcome the injury from a mental standpoint. He moves around well.''

The key for Banks, of course, is getting enough of a grasp on Tennessee's system that he can manage the offense. That takes time but the early results are encouraging.

''He's doing well,'' Sanders said. ''He's fine with the basic things. He has a pretty good idea of where people are going, as long as the coverages don't change too much. When the coverages change and the receivers start changing their routes, then I think he gets confused. (Regarding) some of the checks and adjustments to the run scheme, he has no idea at this point.''

Because he has spent one full season learning UT's system, Leak is well ahead of Banks at this time. Sanders expects the freshman to close the gap in time, however.

''C.J. is the No. 2 guy at this point. I don't think there's much doubt about that,'' the coordinator said. ''But it's a deal where he's going to have to compete to keep that job the whole year because I'm sure James will continue getting better as he understands more about the offense.''

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