Vols Football: 5 Things to Watch in Spring Practices

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1. The Quarterback Competition

It’s going to be a free-for-all. Again. PHOTO: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t heard yet, the Vols have quite a quarterback conundrum on their hands. Three quarterbacks started and saw playing time last season. Junior Justin Worley, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman, and true freshman Joshua Dobbs all started games and had mixed results in the 2013 season.

Peterman by far had the worst time of all the quarterbacks. He started the Florida game in The Swamp and had one of the worst lines in UT history. Butch Jones chose to start him after mediocre performances by Justin Worley to start the season, but he was benched before halftime after completing only 4 of his 11 passes for 5 yards and 2 interceptions. He also coughed up a fumble in the game, and all that led to one of the most dismal debuts of any Tennessee quarterback ever. Peterman was pulled because of a thumb injury and never saw the field again.

Justin Worley started out slow but ended up being an effective QB that helped the Vols almost pull off the upset over Georgia and was vital in orchestrating Tennessee’s 23-21 upset victory over South Carolina. However, during the Alabama game the following weekend, Worley sustained the same freak thumb injury Peterman had, and he missed the rest of the season just as he was beginning to pick up momentum and find his rhythm with the offense and his young weapons. Worley finished the season completing 109 of his 196 passes for 1239 yards with 10 TD’s and 8 interceptions.

After Worley suffered this thumb injuring against Alabama, Butch Jones elected to put in true freshman Joshua Dobbs to face the Crimson Tide on the road. I say Jones “elected” to put Dobbs in, but he had very little choice in who he played because Dobbs was the only healthy scholarship quarterback on the roster at the time. Peterman was already injured and fellow freshman Riley Ferguson was suffering from a foot injury he had sustained during practice sometime before the Alabama game.

While Dobbs flashed his potential in his 4 starts, he was only able to lead the Vols to victory once (against Kentucky) and struggled to find consistency. He was by far the most athletic of the QB’s to play in 2013, racking up 189 rushing yards in those 4 games. Despite his athletic edge, Dobbs did anything but solidify the starting spot heading into this season, and the QB competition remains wide open just like it was last spring.

The wildcard in the competition is the aforementioned Riley Ferguson. He was the only QB to redshirt last season, giving him an additional year of eligibility and allowing him to sit on the bench and absorb the offense and learn from his competition. Many believe Ferguson might actually be the best quarterback on the roster and possesses the highest talent ceiling out of the 4 QB’s on the roster, but without actually seeing him play, nobody can truly say if Ferguson is the answer or not. Regardless, this will likely be the talk of spring practices, and this will be the most intriguing storyline to watch.