KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Brent Schaeffer will become the first true freshman to start at quarterback in a season opener for Tennessee (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) when the Volunteers play UNLV on Sunday.
Coach Phillip Fulmer named his starter Friday. Fulmer said
freshman Erik Ainge will also play, and he considers them
Georgia's John Rauch in 1945 was the last true freshman to start
an opener in the Southeastern Conference.
"Whoever starts the game may not be the one that finishes the
game, but Brent Schaeffer will start," Fulmer said. "Everybody
has told me over the last week or so that it's a historical moment
in SEC football, and that's exciting to be a part of."
Schaeffer, a 6-foot-2, 195 pounder from Deerfield Beach, Fla.,
has been distinctive with his speed and elusiveness. The 6-6,
200-pound Ainge, of Hillsboro, Ore., has impressed the coaches with
his strong arm and vision.
Fulmer said there wasn't a specific reason Schaeffer was picked
"Truthfully, we have co-starters, and that's the way we're
looking at it," he said.
"Both of them are exciting young prospects. In the short term
and long term, I think they are both going to be very good
The freshmen were not available for interviews on Friday.
Fulmer and his staff have planned for Ainge to enter the game
after a couple of series, but those plans could change.
"Erik could go in and get hot and not come out. I don't want to
press them. I don't want them thinking they have to go in and make
every play," Fulmer said. "I'm pleased with what they've done to
this point, and now it's a matter of them continuing to grow."
Even Tennessee legend Peyton Manning didn't start his first game
as a freshman in 1994. He ended up earning the job over fellow
freshman Branndon Stewart after starter Jerry Colquitt and his
backup Todd Helton were injured.
Tennessee needed a new quarterback after Casey Clausen
graduated. He started for four years but didn't become the starter
until the middle of his freshman year.
Tennessee receiver James Banks, who was suspended for the first
three games, will miss the season because of a knee injury.
Banks, a junior who also was practicing at safety, had surgery
on his right knee on Friday to repair a torn meniscus.