Like a year ago, there is no clear-cut leader for the starting quarterback position on Rocky Top.
For the second-straight season it’s a four-man race for the starting quarterback job. Fighting for the starting job are senior Justin Worley, sophomore Josh Dobbs, redshirt sophomore Nathan Peterman, and redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson.
After redshirting, Ferguson has really shined over the course of the offseason, especially in spring camp, but some of his renegade style of play got him into trouble as well. Most of his passes were the extreme version of hit-or-miss. If he hit, they went a long ways down the field. However when he missed, they tended to end up going the other way.
Ferguson has still made a big step up considering he was seemingly at the bottom of the chart last season seeing as he was the only quarterback that never saw playing time. Instead it was Josh Dobbs who got the call out of the two freshmen a year ago to take over the offense after Worley was injured late in the season.
Dobbs had a stellar spring game this year. He led all quarterbacks with four scoring drives, but was anchored by an inconsistent spring camp that was filled with game situation mistakes. As far as his spring game performance, while it was a reassuring performance that he could still be a contender for the job, the fact is unchanged that it’s just a spring game.
Think back to 2008 when Jonathan Crompton started the game with a bomb for a touchdown. Vol fans thought he would easily keep the motor on the Tennessee offense rolling. However, what ensued was one of the Vols’ worst offensive teams in recent history, and led to the firing of then head coach, and Tennessee football legend, Phillip Fulmer.
Peterman is the only quarterback that hasn’t made much of an impact this spring. In the Vols’ final Saturday scrimmage before the Orange and White game he had a good showing with a few big plays, but received the least amount of reps over the spring camp.
Worley still looks like Worley. He’s a game manager. He’s not really one to go for the big play unless it’s nearly wide open. One change for the better in Worley is he’s holding the ball a tad more on the read option, which is essential for any quarterback playing in that style of offense for it to be successful. The only flaw in his game is he tends to stare down his receivers, and typically won’t look past his first read.
Next time you watch him play, keep your eyes on his head when he’s passing. Nine plays out of ten his head will not move. This is what typically leads to sacks, overthrown passes, and worst of all interceptions for the Vols, and it becomes most frustrating when you see a receiver streaking down the field wide-open, but because he wasn’t Worely’s first read he goes completely unnoticed.
In the end, the quarterback race will come down to the final week of fall camp before the Vols kickoff the 2014 season against Utah State. After this spring the two the starting job will most likely come down to are Worley and Ferguson. They have shown their best over the spring, and really bounced back well despite their injuries from a season ago. While Ferguson may be the better passer, runner, and surveyor of the field, at the end of the day the Vols just need a game manager at quarterback, which will tip the scales in Worley’s favor.
Not only his ability to manage the game, but his senior leadership will play crucial roles in Butch Jones’s decision to give him the starting job, but he’ll have to continue to fight to keep the position throughout the season. Jones showed last season he would make a change if he deemed it necessary on a whim when he started Peterman over Worley in the Vols’ conference opener against Florida. However, although hindsight’s 20-20, he may have been better off to keep Worley in after Peterman quickly derailed with turnover after turnover that put the Vols behind in the first half.
Worley is the most likely candidate to be the 2014 starting quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers, but don’t be surprised if Dobbs or Ferguson overtake him before the season is finished.
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