Tennessee suffered a 59-14 beatdown at Oregon on Saturday, the school’s worst loss in the modern era. While the Vols were severely out-manned by the second-ranked Ducks — think “knife to a gunfight” — Tennessee was hindered further by its inability to get much of anything from the quarterback position.
Junior Justin Worley won a four-man competition to become the Vols’ starter this fall. But Worley accuracy has been suspect, as has his arm strength. Through three games he is 35-of-57 for 372 yards, five touchdowns and just one pick. While the TD-to-INT ratio is good, that 6.5 yards-per-attempt average is not. And that number was aided by one 51-yard pass against Oregon.
Making matters worse, Worley is not a runner. Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian use a spread system. Having a quarterback who can’t throw downfield and won’t run on a zone-read play is like trying trying to drive with your emergency brake engaged.
“Just like any position in our program, it’s open. Whatever quarterback has the best week of practice will be the starter for Tennessee when we play Florida. If that means a freshman quarterback, that means a freshman quarterback. We’ll add more quarterback run into our package this week. We just need to find ways to generate big explosive plays. If that’s Josh Dobbs running the read option or Riley Ferguson, that’s what we’ll do.”
In a perfect world, Tennessee’s coaches would allow Worley or redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman to take the lumps in coming weeks (Florida, South Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama) and then go to a freshman when the schedule figures to ease up a little. But Jones might not have that option.
The only SEC squad with fewer plays of 10 or more yards is Florida, but the Gators have only played two games to Tennessee’s three. Those squads will meet in Gainesville — perhaps with a new UT quarterback behind center — on Saturday afternoon.