Ainge out, Clausen in as Tennessee starting QB

Updated: September 6, 2005, 10:53 PM ET
Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Rick Clausen will take over at starting quarterback for No. 6 Tennessee, replacing Erik Ainge for the Volunteers' next game in two weeks, coach Phillip Fulmer said Tuesday.

Tennessee has this week off before back-to-back road games at Florida and LSU.

The Vols' lackluster performance Saturday in a 17-10 season-opening victory over UAB dropped them from No. 3 to No. 6 in The Associated Press poll released Tuesday.

Fulmer named Ainge the starter for the UAB game, saying the sophomore offered a stronger arm and more mobility than Clausen. But Clausen, a senior, played better in the game. Ainge had two passes intercepted.

"Rick will start and we'll rotate probably," Fulmer said after practice. "I want somebody to take the job and it be it."

Both will continue to split time. Fulmer said he was not very concerned about the quarterback shuffle because he believes both are talented. Clausen and Ainge each started games last season.

"They split the reps [in practice]. We have two quarterbacks. Whoever runs out there first will be first," Fulmer said.

Clausen, younger brother of former Vols quarterback Casey Clausen, said after the game he wanted the questions about the quarterback situation to stop.

"Whether I'm starting or not doesn't matter. My job on this football team is to go out and be a leader," he said.

Clausen entered Saturday's game in the third series as planned by the coaches and appeared more calm and in control.

Clausen finished 17-of-24 for 217 yards; Ainge went 5-of-14 for 57 yards.

Ainge and fellow freshman Brent Schaeffer beat out Clausen and then-senior C.J. Leak a year ago. But Clausen ended up being the starter after Ainge and Schaeffer were lost for the season with injuries. Schaeffer transferred after the season.

Ainge talked to reporters before Fulmer had his informal news conference after practice.

He said he was playing too fast on Saturday and that led to some of his mistakes.

"Once you get out of that rhythm and you're trying to get back into that rhythm sometimes you try to do too much. You want to stay on the field, so you try to make plays happen," Ainge said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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