It’s no secret that new quarterbacks have had some magic when playing the Vols in the past (see the running joke that Florida’s second stringer no name QB will have his legacy game against Tennessee). So in light of that theme, we decided to take a look at freshman quarterbacks who have played the Vols this year and see how they fared.
Jacob Eason (Georgia)
Passing: 17-28 211 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT
Rushing: 5 attempts -13 yards and 1 TD
Eason played to the height of his potential against the Vols. Other than taking a few bad sacks, one of which in his own end zone that you can credit to the UGA coaching staff, he lit up the Vols through the air and had a couple good scrambles to keep the sticks moving on 2nd and 3rd down. He even threw what looked like a game-winning 40- yard touchdown pass over veteran Malik Foreman. Georgia seems to be in good hands going forward.
Jalen Hurts (Alabama)
Passing: 17-27 172 yards 1 TD and 1 INT
Rushing: 12 carries 132 yards 3 TD
It helps Hurts that he is surrounded by the best player at every position in the country but that is still not enough to give Tennessee a pass on him. He got most of his completions on screens, underneath routes and even got a little help from garbage-time play, but rushing was all Hurts. He ran through, around and all over Tennessee. Lane Kiffin dialed up the perfect plays for his young QB and he was able to draw in linemen and linebackers, giving Hurts the advantage on the outside where he could use his athleticism to out run whoever was left.
Jake Bentley (South Carolina)
Passing: 15-20 167 yards 2 TDs
Rushing: 10 carries -9 yards 0 TDS
Although the stats aren’t as glowing as the first two, Bentley was able to get the job done in what was his first SEC start. He was able to complete a high percentage of his throws and took care of the football. He had a few scrambles to help keep the sticks moving, and did a fantastic job of staying in the pocket even when pressured and delivering strikes to his receivers. He also did a great job at avoiding what seemed to be sure sacks and turning them into either gains on the ground or quick hits to his wide outs.
Let’s total all those numbers up: 49-of-75 (65.3%) for 550 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 110 yards rushing and 4 rushing TDs.
Tennessee is 1-2 against these quarterbacks, which might not bode well for Tennessee in the future.
As these guys continue to grow and progress in their programs and develop on the field, you have to think their ceilings can only get higher. But it’s also a reminder that older doesn’t necessarily mean better. Tennessee will have a new starter in 2017 – possibly a freshman – and a new era at quarterback can always be just a year away.