When Tennessee takes on No. 3 Georgia on Saturday, there’s a chance the Vols will have a true freshman leading the offense out onto the field.
There’s a growing sentiment around Tennessee’s football team that true freshman Brian Maurer will get the start at quarterback for the Vols on Saturday night when UT hosts Georgia in Neyland Stadium. If Maurer does start, he’ll be the first quarterback besides Jarrett Guarantano to start for Tennessee since 2017.
Ironically enough, the last QB to start for the Vols besides Guarantano was also a true freshman.
In 2017, Guarantano was unable to play against Missouri on the road after sustaining an injury the previous week against Southern Miss. True freshman Will McBride started in his place, and the Vols ended up losing 50-17 to the Tigers.
Georgia’s pass defense has been middle-of-the-road in the SEC this season, but they’ve still had more success than failure against opposing quarterbacks. The Bulldogs are sixth in the SEC in passing yards allowed a game (205.5), and Georgia has intercepted four passes on the year. Opponents are completing 60.5 percent of their passes against the Bulldogs so far this season. Most recently, No. 9 Notre Dame totaled 275 passing yards and two touchdowns against Georgia, though the Dawgs did intercept two passes as well.
The Bulldogs have also had a lot of success getting to opposing quarterbacks. Georgia has 12 sacks on the year, which is tied with Kentucky and South Carolina for the fifth-most in the SEC.
If Maurer does start on Saturday, he’ll be the 11th true freshman ever to start at quarterback for the Vols. Dating back to Alan Cockrell in 1981, Tennessee has had 10 true freshmen quarterbacks earn starts over the last 30-plus years.
How have Tennessee’s other true freshmen quarterbacks fared in their first starts as Vols? What are realistic expectations for Maurer if he does start?
Here’s a look at how every true freshman’s first start at quarterback has gone for the Vols since Cockrell became the first true freshman QB to start for Tennessee.
Note: This is only looking at true freshman quarterbacks, not redshirt freshmen
Will McBride, 2017 — at Missouri (L, 50-17), 16-of-32, 139 yards, TD, 2 INT, 14 carries, 63 yards
2017 season totals: 17-of-40, 152 yards, TD, 2 INT, 18 carries, 70 yards
Josh Dobbs, 2013 — at No. 10 Missouri (L, 31-3), 26-of-42, 240 yards, 2 INT, 7 carries, 45 yards
2013 season totals: 72-of-121, 695 yards, 2 TD, 6 INT, 38 carries, 189 yards, TD
Justin Worley, 2011 — vs. No. 9 South Carolina (L, 14-3), 10-of-26, 105 yards, 2 INT
2011 season totals: 48-of-87, 604 yards, TD, 3 INT
Tyler Bray, 2010 — at Memphis (W, 50-14), 19-of-33, 325 yards, 5 TD
2010 season totals: 125-of-224, 1,849 yards, 18 TD, 10 INT
Brent Schaeffer, 2004 — vs. UNLV (W, 42-17), 7-of-10, 123 yards, TD, 7 carries, 29 yards, TD
2004 season totals: 18-of-37, 302 yards, 2 TD, INT, 33 carries, 66 yards, TD
Erik Ainge, 2004 — vs. No. 8 Auburn (L, 34-10), 17-of-35, 173 yards, TD, 4 INT
2004 season totals: 109-of-198, 1,452 yards, 17 TD, 9 INT
James Banks, 2002 — at Mississippi State (W, 35-17), 3-of-8, 90 yards, TD, 9 carries, 5 yards
2002 season totals: 17-of-31, 277 yards, 2 TD, 40 carries, 63 yards
Casey Clausen, 2000 — vs. Alabama (W, 20-10), 17-of-24, 213 yards, 2 TD
2000 season totals: 121-of-194, 1,473 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT
Peyton Manning, 1994 — vs. Washington State (W, 10-9), 7-of-14, 79 yards
1994 season totals: 89-of-144, 1,141 yards, 11 TD, 6 INT
Alan Cockrell, 1981 — vs. Colorado State (W, 42-0), offense went 13-of-21, 122 yards, 3 INT, Cockrell ran for 2 TDs (full player game stats aren’t available)
1981 season totals: 15-of-31, 119 yards, TD, 2 INT, 21 carries, 64 yards, 2 TD
Six of the previous 10 true freshmen quarterbacks who have started for the Vols have made their first career starts against SEC teams. If Maurer starts on Saturday, he’ll be the seventh QB to do so.
Tennessee is 6-4 all-time when a true freshman QB makes his first career start. When that start comes against SEC teams, the Vols are just 2-4.
Six of the previous 10 true freshmen who made their first starts at quarterback for Tennessee did so at home, and four did so on the road. The last time a true freshman QB made his first career start at home for the Vols was in 2011 when Justin Worley started at home against South Carolina.
In the previous 10 times a true freshman has made his first career start at quarterback for the Vols, that quarterback has eclipsed the 200-yard passing mark just three times. Only five times has a true freshman gone his entire first career start without throwing an interception for Tennessee.
If Maurer starts on Saturday, it’ll mark the fourth time a true freshman has made his first career start against a ranked opponent with the Vols. All three previous instances also came against top-10 opponents like Saturday’s contest against No. 3 Georgia would be. Tennessee is 0-3 in those games, losing by a combined score of 79-16 to No. 8 Auburn (2004), No. 9 South Carolina (2011), and No. 10 Missouri (2013).
Twice has a true freshman run for 45 or more yards in his first career start at QB for the Vols, and twice a quarterback has run for at least one rushing touchdown in his first career start.