Ainge beats out Clausen, will start for Volunteers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Sophomore Erik Ainge will start at quarterback in Tennessee's opener, beating out senior Rick Clausen in a close competition.

But coach Phillip Fulmer said Saturday both quarterbacks will play Sept. 3 at home against UAB. Fulmer added Ainge won't automatically start for the third-ranked Volunteers in their second
game of the season at Florida.

"Erik is our quarterback right now, but we have two quarterbacks," Fulmer said. "Rick did a great job. It wasn't one of those clear-cut things."

Ainge and Brent Schaeffer got the nod last season ahead of Clausen and C.J. Leak. Schaeffer ended up starting the opener, but Ainge took over at midseason, leading the Volunteers to victories at Georgia and Alabama before separating his shoulder in November.

Clausen started the final four games of the season. He was named the offensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl, a 38-7 victory over Texas A&M. Schaeffer has transferred.

"Obviously I'm excited I'm going to take the first snap, but in no means have I won the starting position. Someone has to take the first snap," Ainge said. "If I were to go out there and not play well, not perform, it's not like we're putting in a backup quarterback in Rick Clausen. Rick Clausen is a great quarterback."
Ainge, nephew of Celtics head of basketball operations Danny Ainge, was the 2003 Gatorade player of the year in Oregon.

Clausen, the younger brother of former Vols quarterback Casey Clausen, transferred from LSU in 2003 and was elected a team captain.

Fulmer declined to say how or how often he plans to rotate the
quarterbacks. He and his staff met Saturday morning to make the
final decision and told the team at practice.

"We think he gives us more mobility," Fulmer said of Ainge. "Gives us little more arm. That is nothing to take away from what Rick did."

Fulmer called Clausen as the team's "white knight" for his
performance last season after being demoted and then moving up to

"They made a decision. You just have to live with it. It is what it is, and that's basically the way I'm going to approach it," Clausen said.