Tennessee could start freshman QB in opener
Aug. 20, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer are trying to accomplish a feat that even Peyton Manning couldn't pull off at Tennessee -- start at quarterback in the season-opener as a freshman.
Ainge and Schaeffer now share the No. 1 spot on the depth chart after coach Phillip Fulmer on Thursday bumped sixth-year senior C.J. Leak and junior Rick Clausen to No. 2.
Fulmer hasn't named a starter, but his preference is clear.
"It could change. I don't anticipate that, but it certainly could. If they spit the bit out between now and Saturday, then we might have to go in another direction. I have been very impressed," Fulmer said.
"It would be easy to sit here and kind of stay status quo. The right thing for our football team is to make this happen now."
The 14th-ranked Volunteers open at home against UNLV on Sept. 5.
Ainge stands 6-foot-6 and often draws comparisons to Manning, who didn't break into the starting lineup until the fifth game of his freshman season.
Ainge is the nephew of Danny Ainge, director of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics and a former Celtics player.
Schaeffer is 6-2 with good mobility. He had a 34-yard run up the middle while dodging tacklers during Wednesday's scrimmage.
The freshmen quarterbacks have been off-limits for interviews since media day.
Only four quarterbacks in Tennessee history have started as freshmen since 1972, when the NCAA allowed freshmen to be eligible. The four are Alan ****rell (1981), Manning ('94), Casey Clausen (2000) and James Banks, who started one game for an injured Clausen in 2002.
Clausen became the starter in the sixth game, but Fulmer has said he could have started the opener if he had not hurt his shoulder.
"That would have been much like this situation except he had spring practice," Fulmer said.
Manning played in the 1994 opener after starter Jerry Colquitt was hurt. Manning didn't get to start until Colquitt's backup, Todd Helton, was injured.
Fulmer said he wanted to name a starter soon and let the staff "build our offense around what they can do."
The Associated Press News Service
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