The most-asked question of summer camp for Tennessee’s football program was answered on Thursday afternoon at UT’s Media Day.
Coach Butch Jones officially named Justin Worley the Vols’ starting quarterback, making it the second-straight year that Tennessee will start the season under the guidance of the Rock Hill, S.C. native.
Worley started last season as the starter and appeared in eight games, starting seven, before missing the rest of the year with a hand injury. The senior is 172 of 306 for 1977 yards with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his career.
“He’s earned the right to be the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee,” Jones said of Worley. “As we know, being the quarterback at Tennessee is a global position – it’s worldwide. It comes with a lot of standards and expectations behind who your quarterback is and Justin has earned the right.”
“It felt good to hear it again,” Worley added. “To know that I could bounce back from my injury and go out there and continue to lead the offense and earn the coaches’ faith again.”
It was a decision that was months in the making. Worley has seen most of the work with the first team throughout this fall camp, though Jones said this decision was more about a body of work than any individual practice or drill.
“It started in spring football and he’s earned his way all the way through the course of training camp, so this just hasn’t been one or two practices of putting it together, it’s been an accumulation of reps that started in spring football and he’s earned that right,” Jones said. “I believe Justin is playing the best football he has in a long time. He brings different elements to the table – he’s managing the offense, he’s making good decisions with the football and he’s hanging in the pocket and doing a lot of good things.”
No depth chart was laid out behind Worley, with Jones only saying that Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs, the only other two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, will continue to compete behind Worley.
From all accounts and observations, Peterman had a fantastic camp, making an impressive turnaround from his lone disastrous start at Florida last season. His progress wasn’t enough to overtake Worley, however.
After using three quarterbacks last year and nearly needing a fourth, Jones said he’s confident that the two backups will know that they very well could be needed.
“I thought Nate Peterman and Josh Dobbs have taken great strides as well moving forward,” Jones said. “They’ll continue to compete and as we know you’re one snap away. We found that out last year. I expect that position group to continue to battle and compete, but right now we think Justin Worley gives this football team and this football program the best opportunity to win at this point in time, but I’m also excited about the two other individuals as well.”