Gone: Riley Ferguson (Transfer)
Returning: Justin Worley (SR), Joshua Dobbs (SO) Nathan Peterman (RS SO)
Newcomers: Mike Wegzyn (Expected walk-on transfer from UMass)
The thought that Tennessee would get its quarterback puzzle sorted out at some point in the 2013 season never fully materialized.
But there were clues along the way. After a rocky start to the season, then-junior Justin Worley finally started to figure it out in the middle of the season. Worley, and not coincidentally, the team, hit their stride in a two-game stretch against Georgia and South Carolina. A shaky start at No. 1 Alabama, combined with a thumb injury sustained in that contest, changed the outlook of the position.
Worley was shelved for the rest of the season and enter Joshua Dobbs, a coach’s dream type of quarterback known for his leadership, work ethic and intelligence. And while he made some plays that proved that his overall talent can line up with his intangibles, the Vols struggled under his command in part due to a brutal late-season schedule and in part due to some freshman struggles from Dobbs.
A strong finale at Kentucky and an impressive Orange and White Game performance gave Dobbs’ stock a boost heading into the summer.
Freshman Riley Ferguson waited in the wings as 2013 played out. Limited by a hairline fracture in his leg and a few freshman-type mistakes off the field, coach Butch Jones preserved his redshirt as Dobbs played out the season. Blessed with the best pure arm of the group on campus, Ferguson got some first-team reps in the spring, but unexpectedly bolted from the team shortly before the summer.
That leaves Worley, Dobbs and Nathan Peterman, who briefly got his shot in The Swamp before a disastrous performance and a thumb injury, as the scholarship trio competing for the nod in 2014.
Jones on whether he needs a mobile quarterback for his offense:
“I think the best coaches are the ones that mold their schemes around the players they have. We’re going to play to the strengths of our players and our offense is quarterback-centered. Make no mistakes around it, around the country, whether it’s high school, college or pro, offenses start with the quarterback. We’ll base our offense around the quarterback’s skill set.”
By the numbers
• Worley: (UT career) 172 of 306 (56.2%) 1977 passing yards, 11 TD, 13 INTs
• Peterman: (UT career) 10 of 23 (43.5%) 45 passing yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
• Dobbs: (UT career) 72 of 101 (59.5%) 695 passing yards, 2 TDs, 6 INTs
Projected initial depth chart
It’s a position battle in a sense, though it would be surprising to see anybody, barring injury, but Worley take the first snap against Utah State. Dobbs brings a lot to the table and if his accuracy and overall arm strength take big steps in the summer, he could make things interesting. He certainly has the intelligence and the athleticism to be the starter.
But the best guess is Dobbs starts the year as the No. 2 and stays ready in case of injury or ineffective play by Worley. Peterman is a fairly distant third at this point, though with UT’s somewhat snake-bitten recent past at quarterback, he’ll need to make strides and be ready for snaps at some point.
Dobbs is the only scholarship QB eligible to take one. If Worley is highly effective and stays healthy, there’s the ever-so-slight possibility that Dobbs could take the redshirt season he missed out on in 2013, but don’t count on it.