Tennessee’s incredible gauntlet of ranked foes isn’t getting much easier this week as the Vols head to Missouri to face a Tiger team still smarting from its first loss of the season. Making matters worse for UT is the fact that starting quarterback Justin Worley re-injured the thumb on his throwing hand in Saturday’s 45-10 loss at Alabama.
With Worley injured, the Vols had to burn the redshirt of true freshman Josh Dobbs, a player who lacks Worley’s experience but surpasses the junior in skills. This week’s quarterback battle at practice appears to be up in the air. Well, sort of.
While Butch Jones will likely try to keep Missouri guessing throughout the week — Worley was still listed as the #1 quarterback yesterday — the odds seem to favor Dobbs at this point. First, he’s healthy. Worley is less than 100% with the thumb injury. Nathan Peterman has just had the cast removed from his own hand injury suffered in his nightmare start at Florida. Dobbs’ fellow freshman, Riley Ferguson, is in a walking boot. Toss in the fact that Worley tweeted and then deleted a message saying “Everything happens for a reason,” and it would appear that Dobbs will play quite a bit on Saturday, if not start.
Just listen to Jones comments about Dobbs’ and his performance at Alabama (in which he led UT to 10 second-half point, no small feat against the Tide):
“He was poised. He was calm. He was disciplined. He had a command about himself…
He’s a 4.0 student. I think he’s got a photographic memory. You’re either a fountain or a drain, you know? Every day he’s a fountain…
You would never know that he played on Saturday. He is the same Josh Dobbs that we see each day. I take great comfort in being around players like that.”
In addition to having a stronger arm, Dobbs brings a running threat to the quarterback position, something that has been missing from Tennessee’s zone read offense.
In other injury news, Jones suggested that defensive backs Brian Randolph and Byron Moore — both injured against Alabama — should be healthy enough to play on Saturday.
Update: According to Knoxville sportscaster Jimmy Hyams, Dobbs will start at Missouri Saturday. Justin Worley is out four weeks with torn ligaments.
We’ve confirmed UT QB Justin Worley will be out about 4 weeks with torn ligaments in right thumb. QB Josh Dobbs will start v. Missouri
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) October 29, 2013