'I would never alternate quarterbacks'

Tennessee platooned quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen in 2005 and went 5-6. The Vols platooned quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens in 2008 and went 5-7.

Whether a QB platoon is the cause of a lame offense or merely a symptom of one, new head coach Lane Kiffin is determined that Tennessee find one guy and stick with him throughout the 2009 season.

"I definitely want to have one," Kiffin said. "I don't believe in rotating quarterbacks. The quarterback needs to be the leader of your offense. He needs to have a rhythm. Quarterbacks don't operate well under pressure, feeling they're going to get pulled all the time if they don't."

Kiffin should know. He played quarterback in high school and as a backup at Fresno State University (1994-97).

Tennessee fans should know, too. They saw the '05 team fall apart as Ainge and Clausen alternated at the controls. They saw the '08 team self-destruct as Crompton went 3-3 in his six starts and Stephens went 2-4 in his six starts.

Although coaches routinely pull an ineffective starter at other positions, yanking a quarterback rarely seems to work.

"At some other positions you can do that," Kiffin said. "You create competition and you play (different) guys throughout the game. But you're worried about effort at other positions, and that doesn't happen at quarterback."

Whereas making a change at defensive tackle affects only the defensive line, making a change at quarterback affects the entire offensive unit.

"Great offenses have a rhythm about them," Kiffin said. "If you switch quarterbacks, the cadence is different, the huddle is different and you never really create a real rhythm."

The first-year Vol coach says changing QBs even proves disruptive during practice. The linemen come off the ball quicker once they grow accustomed to a quarterback's cadence. The insertion of a new QB requires an adjustment that slows them down a bit.

"You can't play really fast with two different cadences," Kiffin said. "When you have two different cadences - not just in games but all week in practice - they (linemen) never get used to it, and you increase your penalties."

Finally, a change at quarterback can disrupt the chemistry between the play-caller and the guy executing those plays.

"The play-caller and the quarterback have to have a great relationship," Kiffin said. "The more experience you (as play-caller) get with the guy, the better you become at protecting him in certain situations."

Every quarterback excels in some situations and stumbles in others, so a good play-caller can put him in more of the former and fewer of the latter. When a new quarterback enters the lineup, however, he brings with him a new set of weaknesses the play-caller must try to cover.

"If you don't know that, you're going to put him in those situations too many times," Kiffin said. "I would NEVER alternate quarterbacks."


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