College Football Insider

Volunteers Ditch Two-Quarterback System

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 23, 2005; 10:33 AM

With No. 10 Tennessee's offense scoring fewer points than all but 10 teams in Division I-A, Coach Phillip Fulmer is ditching his two-quarterback system, and sophomore Erik Ainge will start in Saturday night's key SEC contest at No. 3 LSU.

Neither Ainge nor senior Rick Clausen were very effective in the Volunteers' first two games, a 17-10 win over Alabama-Birmingham and 16-7 loss at Florida last Saturday night. But Fulmer decided to go with Ainge because he is more mobile than Clausen and has a stronger arm.

"That's absolutely no reflection on Rick Clausen, but I believe the timing and everything will be better with one quarterback," Fulmer said. "It was one of the toughest things I've been through. We've had to make a lot of decisions on quarterbacks since I've been here, and we've always been pretty definitive. But this was particularly tough because of the love and admiration we have for Rick Clausen. He's done a lot for this football team."

Against the Gators, neither Ainge nor Clausen were able to take advantage of the Gators playing press coverage against the Volunteers receivers. Both quarterbacks attempted to throw deep passes down the sideline, but their timing with receivers was consistently off.

With the passing game struggling, the Blazers and Gators stacked the line to stop tailback Gerald Riggs Jr. The Volunteers rank 91st in the country in rushing with only 102 yards per game.

"We think this is the right thing to do and we'll go forward with Erik," Fulmer said. "Obviously, it's not 100 percent fair to everybody, but we're going to move forward."

Ainge, the nephew of former Boston Celtics star Danny Ainge, played remarkably well as a freshman last season, completing 55.1 percent of his passes for 1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns in nine games. He helped lead the Volunteers to a 10-3 record and spot in the SEC championship game.

Clausen, the younger brother of former Vols starter Casey Clausen and a transfer from LSU, played well when Ainge separated his shoulder late in the season. He led the Volunteers to comeback wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky was very sharp in a 38-7 victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

"Obviously, Rick is disappointed," Fulmer said. "The first thing is he's a team guy and he's going to do everything he can to help this team. He loves and respects Erik and he's going to do everything he can to help Erik."

Long Travel Day

Because of the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., the Volunteers won't travel to LSU until Saturday morning. Most Division I-A teams travel to road games the day before and spend the night in a hotel. The Volunteers are scheduled to fly from Knoxville to Baton Rouge before noon for the 7:45 p.m. kickoff. Tennessee has secured a few hotel rooms where players can rest.

Potential bad weather from Hurricane Rita, which is bearing down on the Texas coast, also could impact Baton Rouge.

"Obviously, everybody right now is in a wait and see mode," Fulmer said. "Particularly since we have to travel on game day, it's something we really have to keep our eye on."

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