Tennessee had a problem on this year’s signing day when the Vols signed three four-star quarterbacks in Quinten Dormady, Sheriron Jones and Jauan Jennings. It was somewhat of a good problem, but a problem none-the-less.
There’s rarely too much of a good thing in terms of depth at a position. Quarterback, however, might be the closest thing to an exception. Teams can go entire seasons only playing one or two guys. Overload that spot, and, more so than any other primary position, players will look for greener pastures elsewhere.
Look no further than USC, where former five-star quarterback Ricky Town, in the midst of a battle with another highly-touted QB in his own class and behind a couple other veterans, packed it up over the weekend and left before ever suiting up for a game.
I was asked multiple times after the Vols signed their trio of four-star quarterbacks this year if there was any chance that they could keep all three happy. I only saw one way that it could work: move one, play one and redshirt one. It looks like that might be the path Butch Jones is heading down. And if it is, it’s the right one.
Move one: Jauan Jennings came co-listed as a quarterback and “athlete” by some recruiting services. Moving him to receiver seemed like the obvious move, but I wasn’t sure if it would happen. He worked only at QB in the spring, and when pressed on it, it was unanimous from Butch Jones, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord and Jennings himself that his focus would be on developing as a signal caller in the spring.
From my eyes, this seemed to be a decision that somewhat made itself. Jennings had a lot of what you’d want in a QB – athleticism, leadership and a competitive fire – but lacked the mechanics, the consistent arm and an understanding of the nuances of the position that several of his teammates had. He had, after all, only been a quarterback for a couple years at the high school level when he got to Knoxville. And with questions about the receivers over the offseason, the move made a ton of sense. Getting a player, who was adamant about playing QB just a few months earlier, to switch isn’t an easy task, but it seems that Jennings has bought in and has shown impressive results so far in camp.
Play one: While it was fairly simple to see the questions about Jennings at QB in the spring, Dormady was on the opposite end of the spectrum. The son of a Texas high school football coach, Dormady looked comfortable behind center from Day 1. He came in with an SEC frame, he threw the ball around with impressive accuracy for a true freshman in his first few practices and has improved even more so from that time forward.
It wasn’t surprising to hear Butch Jones officially name Dormady the No. 2 quarterback on Friday, and to continue to praise him after the open practice on Saturday.
“Quinten continues to get better and better through repetitions,” said Butch Jones.”He is very, very competitive and is playing with a lot of confidence right now. You can see it. Really, to me, his biggest maturation has been in terms of leadership. Quinten has been more vocal than he has ever been. He is holding others around him accountable.”
Jones specifically said that Dormady will play in 2015. There’s no redshirt plan in place for him, it appears.
Redshirt one: Here’s the part of the plan that, as Tennessee fans know all too well, can be blown up in just two snaps. But with Joshua Dobbs as the clear-cut starter and Dormady in place at No. 2, that puts newcomer Sheriron Jones at No. 3 – and at least in position to be the one who redshirts and separates himself a class from the others.
Butch Jones, understandably, can’t have that mindset right now. The Vols have used three quarterbacks the past two seasons, so it would be presumptuous to say that Sheriron Jones will be able to sit on the shelf and get that redshirt with no question.
“Sheriron [Jones] is progressing and he has to be ready – Sheriron is two snaps away from being in a game,” Butch Jones reminded over the weekend.
So the goal, most likely, will be to keep Sheiron Jones as prepared as possible with the hopes that he can get the redshirt season and complete the split of the four-star trio signed last February.
Will all three stick around long term, complete their eligibility and be a factor for the Vols in some way? That’s difficult to say. It becomes even more convoluted when Jarrett Guarantano – a highly-ranked 2016 quarterback – joins the Vols next year. Add in that the Vols are co-favorites or favorites (according to 247Sports’ Crystal Ball) to land the top pro-style passer in the nation (per 247’s rankings) in both the 2017 (Hunter Johnson) and 2018 (Trevor Lawrence) classes, and your mind will explode trying to figure out the potential future depth chart.
About all that can be said right now is that there is a surplus of talent at the position, and that, so far, Butch Jones is handling it correctly.