Joshua Dobbs has that locked down. Nothing this spring changed that. But on the flip side, the No. 2 QB job is as wide open as it’s been in years. And history says the Vols will need to turn to the backup at some point for meaningful snaps at some point in 2015. The 2012 season was the last time the Vols made it through a full season using primarily one QB. The 2009 season was the last time the Vols made it through an entire season without a quarterback change during a meaningful part of the game due to injury or ineffectiveness.
That means, odds are, the Vols will have to turn to a true freshman signal caller at some point in 2015 for some meaningful snaps. That keeps head coach Butch Jones up at night.
“Where my sleepless nights are is, ‘Who’s gonna be number 2, and who’s gonna be number 3?'” Jones said following the Orange and White Game. “In the world of college football you need more than one quarterback on your roster. You need a number of them, because you’re one play away. And that’s kinda where one of my thought processes is as we move forward. Who’s gonna develop into those positions?”
But Tennessee got a bit of clarity this spring as the Vols got a couple of their candidates on campus early. Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord discussed the value of having Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings on campus this spring to get a head start.
“I think that is was so valuable,” DeBord said after the final spring practice session. “You know, it’s a new language. It’s like if you’ve been in Spanish class for three years and then you walk into Latin and all of a sudden you’re hearing new language, new terms – everything is different. And so they’ve had to learn some things technique-wise, so that’s been invaluable. What we’ve said to them is, ‘Look, we don’t want a finished product after practice 15. We want a gradual step every practice, we want to get better every practice.’ Then after we’re done with that, the summer is going to be valuable to them, and training camp, so they’re ready for the first game.”
There’s no doubt that the 15 practice sessions paid dividends for the newcomers. Dormady seemed to emerge as the most polished option behind Dobbs. The son of a high school coach, the Boerne, Tex., native showed more consistency throughout the course of the spring in the passing game.
Jennings, an electric athlete, showed promise as well and improved on his mechanics in the process. His long touchdown run in the Orange and White Game showed that he’s a player who can ignite the offense in the right situation.
But the battle will grow this summer when fellow four-star quarterback recruit Sheriron Jones joins the mix. How much catch-up work does he have to do to get in the conversation?
“I don’t know if you can measure that,” DeBord said. “It’s hard because he’s not here right now, but he’ll come in, he’ll learn our system, you know he’ll have to learn fast and he’ll have to spend extra time at it, but you know, again, it’s a different language and our guys that are here right now have it. But I do know Jones is working hard at it right now, and I’m sure he’ll put every effort in coming in here and being able to compete.”
It’s a question the Vols won’t have more clarity on until this fall, and ultimately won’t have answers for until a backup is thrust into action, if it comes to that, in the season. But DeBord feels better with spring practice in the books.
“Yeah, I think after you work with them for 15 practices now, I feel a lot better than when I started,” he said. “But again, it’s going to be a gradual process to get them there for game one. This summer is going to be critical for them, and what they do individually and with the guys, it’s going to be invaluable to them.”