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September 2, 2005

The two-deep: Depth chart changes and surprises

Check out the Two-deep depth charts for every Division-I team!
The depth charts for Week 1 have been set, but as the Adrian Petersons, Rick Clausens and Ted Ginns of college football can tell you, starting positions can change dramatically from week to week. Whether by injury, performance, or discipline, star players fade out while new faces emerge throughout the season.

So each week in the Rivals.com Two Deep column, we'll look at significant depth chart changes around college football.

When a star tackle goes down with an injury, you'll read about his replacement here. If a big-name linebacker is suspended or a major quarterback gets yanked, Rivals.com will provide insight into what the changes mean to the teams.

Heading into the 2005 season, several high-profile programs have waited until the final week of August to distinguish between the starting and backup quarterbacks. Read on to find out what each man under center will bring in the first week of the season.

Tennessee starter: Erik Ainge, So.
Tennessee backup: Rick Clausen, Sr.
Ainge proved himself as a true freshman last season by having big games against big opponents. He made a name for himself in Knoxville for solid games against SEC rivals Florida and Georgia.

But Clausen enjoyed success of his own last season, stepping in when Ainge went down with a season-ending injury. Clausen orchestrated three wins in four games and earned MVP honors at the Cotton Bowl.

Though both quarterbacks have strong arms, UT Coach Phillip Fulmer said Ainge got the nod primarily due to foot speed. "Erik will start the game because we think he gives us a bit more mobility. He went up to the Notre Dame game last year and had not given up a sack," Fulmer said.

Fulmer also noted that Ainge does a better job in the vertical passing game. Even so, Fulmer plans on getting Clausen playing time this week against UAB. Ainge doesn't have a lock on the starting job, so if he struggles on Saturday and Clausen excels, don't be surprised to see the senior get the starting nod against Florida in Week 2.

Florida State starter: Drew Weatherford, Fr.
Florida State backup: Xavier Lee, Fr.

Coming into fall camp, Bobby Bowden said Weatherford and Lee had an equal shot at the starting job. Though both struggled early on in scrimmages, Weatherford showed the most improvement. Weatherford probably would have won the starting job anyway, but Lee's missed week due to a minor shoulder injury sealed the deal.

Bowden and the Florida State coaching staff have been careful to distinguish that they have named a starter not a No. 1 quarterback. If Lee is ready as expected for the Miami game, he will see playing time.

With Weatherford on the field, the Seminoles have the quarterback who has improved dramatically over the last couple of weeks. When Lee is on the field, they have a dual-threat quarterback with an extremely powerful arm. Note: Should Lee's shoulder flare-up become something more serious, the backup role would probably fall to walk-on junior Thomas Keane, the only other quarterback on the Seminoles' roster.

Oklahoma starter: Paul Thompson, Jr.
Oklahoma backup: Rhett Bomar, Fr.
In Oklahoma, replacing Heisman Trophy winner Jason White wasn't an easy process. For offensive coordinator Chuck Long, it took four fall scrimmages to decide on the Sooners' starting quarterback.

Thompson has been in the Stoops system since 2002. He put up impressive numbers in a reserve role in 2002 and 2003, completing 66 percent of his passes while rushing for 6.3 yards per carry. Bomar, a redshirt freshman, was a five-star prospect in the class of 2004. He's less mobile than Thompson but still racked up more than 7,700 yards of total offense in high school.

Long and Stoops gave Thompson the starting blessing because the junior has collegiate experience. He outplayed Bomar during scrimmages by taking fewer risks downfield. Thompson will throw more quick outs, curls and dumps to the running back. Bomar has a tendency to make big plays on deep routes, but he occasionally gives up big plays to the defense, as well.

Long hasn't ruled out a two-quarterback system, though, and he plans to make adjustments to the depth chart throughout the season as performance merits.

Cal starter: Nate Longshore, Fr.
Cal backup: Joseph Ayoob, Jr.
Coach Jeff Tedford originally seemed to be leaning toward JUCO All-American Joseph Ayoob. In the past week, though, Tedford named redshirt freshman Nate Longshore as the Golden Bears' starter.

Ayoob's primary advantage over Longshore is his mobility in the pocket, although with 3,679 passing yards and 35 scores in 2004, his arm can obviously be relied on, as well. But Longshore has had an entire season to learn the ins and outs of Tedford's offense. He showed promise during the spring game when he completed 5 of 6 passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns. With a strong arm and a developing rapport with the speedy Cal receivers, Longshore excelled during fall camp.

Tedford has promised that, though Longshore will take the first snap, both quarterbacks will see time on Saturday. But Tedford doesn't want a quarterback-by-committee approach, so expect a permanent starter to emerge in the coming weeks.

Others to watch:
The Cornhuskers have been drooling over JUCO junior cornerback Zackary Bowman. Since he was expected to be a huge asset to the Nebraska secondary, most were surprised when he was named to the second-string defense. Even so, Bowman should see serious playing time against Maine this weekend and has a good shot to earn a starting spot within the next few weeks.
Just a year after Iowa's disintegration at running back, the starting job in the backfield is up in the air. As of the latest report, the starter would be a game-time decision for coach Kirk Ferentz. Marcus Schnoor and Albert Young will split carries, while freshman Shonn Green has been promised playing time, as well. Senior Marques Simmons, who had some success last season, seems to be the odd man out.
There's a lot of shuffling going on along the Virginia offensive line. Senior Brian Barthelmes, who has started 27 games at guard during his college career, has been moved to center. Sophomore Ian-Yates Cunningham who came to Virginia as a center, then started five games in 2003 as a guard will be backing up freshman Branden Albert at guard. Al Groh won't call for any shotgun snaps until Barthelmes gets more reps in the middle.
After UCLA coach Karl Dorrell opened up the quarterback race between Drew Olson and Ben Olson (no relation), the incumbent (Drew) won out over the highly touted young stud (Ben). It turned out to be the right choice Ben will be out for this weekend's contest against San Diego State with a mildly fractured finger on his throwing hand. David Koral will step into the backup role.

Find more college football news and analysis on the Rivals.com college football home page.



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