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Vols go with freshman at QB

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Published September 4, 2004

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Brent Schaeffer will become the first freshman to start at quarterback in a season opener for the No. 14 Volunteers when they play UNLV on Sunday.

Coach Phillip Fulmer named his starter Friday. Fulmer said freshman Erik Ainge also will play, and he considers them co-starters.

Georgia's John Rauch in 1945 was the last freshman to start an opener in the SEC.

"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."

Ainge and Schaeffer were moved to the top of the depth chart in the middle of preseason practice ahead of sixth-year senior C.J. Leak and junior transfer Rick Clausen.

Schaeffer, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder from Deerfield Beach, has been distinctive with his speed and elusiveness. The 6-6, 200 Ainge 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 players."

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.

In other news, 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 to repair a torn meniscus.

UCLA: Tab Perry was cleared by the NCAA to play this season, giving the team a major boost at receiver. Perry, a senior who also returns kicks, was academically ineligible last season and dismissed from school in January. He was readmitted Aug. 18.

Perry had 35 catches for 698 yards two years ago. The 6-foot-3 receiver has 62 career receptions for 1,172 yards and three touchdowns.

UCLA was informed of the decision during a conference call with members of the NCAA staff.

In granting the waiver, the NCAA membership services staff cited Perry's academic plan that moves him toward earning a degree at UCLA within one year. Perry's attended summer school, improving his grade-point average and earning several course credits.

VANDY: Coach Bobby Johnson signed a new contract, less than a day before the Commodores open the season against South Carolina.

Terms weren't disclosed.

Johnson is 4-20 with one SEC win in two seasons. Vanderbilt has not had a winning season since 1982, but returns 21 of 22 starters this season from a young squad.

"I am appreciative of the confidence that our administration has expressed in me and my coaching staff," Johnson said. "We will continue working hard to build the kind of program everyone wants."

The Commodores snapped a 23-game conference losing skid, the worst in the nation, against Kentucky in November.

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