Butch Jones Giving Equal Opportunity To Quarterbacks


Sep 21, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones high fives quarterback Justin Worley (14) after they scored a touchdown against the Florida Gators during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Justin Worley and Josh Dobbs’ extensive playing time at quarterback last season, neither — according to Butch Jones — has the inside track to be the starter in 2014.

Jones stated as much on ‘Vol Calls’ Wednesday night when he said “I want to give every one of the four quarterbacks a chance to be the starting quarterback at Tennessee”. He continued by saying “Every rep is being evaluated. We have a checklist to make sure every individual gets a chance to prove themselves”.

Contrary to what Jones says, prior experience will be a factor when it comes to naming the starting quarterback.

There’s just no way around it.

The emergence of Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston in their respective redshirt freshmen seasons has made fans forget how extremely rare it is for redshirt freshman to excel — at any level, especially in the SEC.

Fans were reminded of this last season when redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman started at quarterback for the Vols against Florida. Peterman, who injured his thumb during the game, played terribly.

Peterman had previously been praised by Jones and his teammates for his work ethic and preparation.

Aug 31, 2013; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Nathan Peterman (12) waits for the snap against the Austin Peay Governors at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee won 45-0. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

But all of that goes out the window when you play the game for real. Some players react differently to the pressure than others. Ultimately that is what separates “average” players and “star” players.

Riley Ferguson, more than likely is in that “average” group. That’s just what the odds would tell us. It’s impossible for any of us — even the coaches — to know how Ferguson will perform in game action.

And I’m not talking some clean-up action like Nathan Peterman saw against Austin Peay last season. I’m talking real game situations like Peterman saw against Florida, or Josh Dobbs against Missouri. That’s when you can really measure a quarterback.

There’s a small chance, however, that Ferguson is the answer. That he’ll be the next big thing in college football. After-all, it’s no secret that Ferguson was who the coaches wanted to play when Worley went down, but a leg injury prevented that from happening.

Butch Jones has proved he’s not afraid to take risks (just ask Mark Richt, Jones almost gave him a heart attack last season). If he likes what he sees from Ferguson in spring practice, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jones give him a shot.

Of course that’s not what I expect to happen.

I fully expect Dobbs or Worley to win the starting job.

Nov 23, 2013; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) runs the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Neyland Stadium. Vanderbilt won 14 to 10. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

My gut tells me Dobbs, but Worley wouldn’t surprise me either and is probably the best scenario for Tennessee.

Worley isn’t going to wow you with his arm (or speed), but he takes care of the football — and that’s very very important to Butch Jones.

And let’s not forget, he led the Vols to a win over South Carolina, their biggest victory in four years.

When Worley was under center last season, the Vols were starting to click.

After Worley was injured, the offense never looked the same. Sure, Dobbs was able to open up the playbook a bit more with his legs, but Tennessee never quite found their offensive rhythm after the win against South Carolina.

Oct 26, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Justin Worley (14) looks on from the sidelines after being taken out of the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

If Worley is named the starter this fall, it won’t be a popular choice among fans, but it might end up being what gets the Vols to their first bowl game since 2010.

But as of right now, everyone is equal and only Butch Jones has the tiniest inkling as to who the starting quarterback will be on Rocky Top in 2014.