University of Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said his two freshmen quarterbacks are co-starters.
But I didn't see Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge line up side-by-side in the shotgun for UT's first offensive play of the season (even though that would have been fun to watch).
Fulmer said the only reason Schaeffer got the nod over Ainge for the UNLV game is that someone had to be first.
Did the 13th-year coach just flip a coin?
I don't think so.
Don't get me wrong - Ainge had one of the best freshman debuts in the country last weekend.
Not many 18-year-olds could keep their heart from stopping if they lined up under center in front of more than 108,000 fans for the first time against one of the best safeties in the nation (the Rebels' Jamaal Brimmer).
Not many could then throw 17 passes resulting in 10 completions, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
But nobody in the World of College Football could do what Schaeffer did on only his second possession as the Volunteers' quarterback.
The native of Deerfield Beach, Fla., fumbled on the Vols' first possession after being blindsided less than two seconds after he received the snap. I blame Tennessee's blockers for that turnover.
Schaeffer shook it off. Then the Michael Vick impersonator led a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with the prettiest 1-yard score in Neyland Stadium's 83-year history.
The play was a designed bootleg.
If Casey Clausen were still in charge of UT's offense, he would have been sacked back at the 10-yard line and the Vols probably would have settled for a field goal.
If Ainge or Peyton Manning were under center at the time, the coaches would have probably called a run up the middle or a pass - which MAY have ended in a touchdown.
When six UNLV defenders stood between Schaeffer and the endzone, Tennessee fans were probably worried.
But Schaeffer looked excited by the challenge.
He simply shook off one tackle in the backfield, then he saw three Rebels standing on the goal line ready to make the stop.
Schaeffer then made his feet temporarily disappear as he instantly shifted to his left. He breezed into the endzone as if to say "No soup for you!" to UNLV's anxious defense.
But Schaeffer is not just a runner. That has become the stereotype for quarterbacks who are capable of wowing crowds with elusive footwork.
He's not your stereotypical scrambling quarterback. He proved that when he threw a 35-yard strike down the sideline to redshirt freshman Robert Meachem in the third quarter.
Meachem never had to break stride. The play was Meachem's first catch and first touchdown at UT.
But it was also the first sign that Schaeffer knows how to lead a team to a score with his passing.
Go ahead and memorize the phrase, "Schaeffer to Meachem." That shouldn't be hard to do after the two phenoms begin to hook up against SEC opponents.
And even though Fulmer claims that neither Schaeffer nor Ainge has an advantage over the other, don't believe him. Expect Schaeffer to start against Florida Sept. 18.
Many people say the Vols are better off with rotating quarterbacks. They say it will confuse the defense.
Schaeffer can do that on his own.
Schaeffer can do anything Ainge can do. If you switch the names in that sentence, the statement is no longer true.
Some say Ainge has a quicker release than his freshman counterpart. That MAY be true.
Why would Schaeffer want to use a quick release, though, when his quick feet can give him the space to be relaxed with his throws?
When Schaeffer is in the game, Tennessee's offense has three options on every play. Schaeffer can hand off to a tailback or pass.
Or he can just break the ankles of every defender and make it look as easy as beating Vanderbilt.
While sharing snaps with Ainge on Sunday, Schaeffer gained 123 yards through the air on 7-of-10 passing. He also ran the ball seven times for 29 yards and a touchdown (including the negative-10 yards counted against his stats because of the fumble on his first possession that wasn't his fault).
If Schaeffer would have played the entire game, he probably would have thrown for about 250 yards and gained more than 100 on the ground. That would have been the best freshman performance in an opener in college football history.
It would have left Superman Schaeffer with more confidence than Donald Trump in a business meeting.
Fulmer should start Schaeffer every game and give him a majority of the snaps. Then he should be aggressive with his play calling without worrying about an injury to the most multi-talented quarterback he's ever coached.
Because if Schaeffer does go down after trying to gain a couple of extra yards on a bootleg, UT fans will just have to settle for the best backup quarterback in the nation.
- Matt Giles is the sports editor of The Daily Beacon and a senior in journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schaeffer barely better than Ainge
Published: Wed Sep 08, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 06:20 p.m.