Clausen's close to 100 percent

UT football fans attending the Peach Bowl on New Year's eve will see something they haven't witnessed in roughly three months -- a healthy Casey Clausen.

Tennessee's junior quarterback suffered a fractured fibula in Game 5 against Arkansas on Oct. 5, and was nowhere near 100 percent in the seven games since. He missed all of Game 6 and was still recovering from the fibula injury when he sustained foot and ankle injuries in Game 9 against Miami that sidelined him for Game 10 against Mississippi State. Clausen returned to action in Games 11 (Vanderbilt) and 12 (Kentucky) but was clearly hobbling.

''The Kentucky game he may have been 70-75 percent, and probably 50-60 percent against Vanderbilt,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''I expect him to be much healthier for the bowl game. He may be close to 100 percent by the Peach Bowl.''

Even at 60 percent, Clausen guided the Vols with poise and precision in a 24-0 defeat of Vanderbilt, completing 12 of 22 passes for 120 yards. He was even sharper against UK, completing 13 of 26 attempts (with at least four catchable balls dropped) for 175 yards and two touchdowns as the Vols again prevailed by a 24-0 count.

''Against Kentucky he did a much better job in the mechanics than he did against Vanderbilt,'' Sanders said. ''But the biggest thing is, he allows us to open up what we can do a little bit.''

Because Clausen was damaged goods in Games 11 and 12, Tennessee did not have the luxury of rolling him out to avoid the pass rush. That was just too risky.

''Against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, I think we moved him one time,'' Sanders said. ''Other than that, we tried to get him back there and get the ball out of his hands quick, so he wouldn't get hit. Once we got the lead in those two games, it was like 'Let's do everything we can not to get him hit.' ''

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