Will Justin Worely be UT’s Starter?

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Updated: August 1, 2013

Justin Worley

Surely he can’t do it, right? There’s no way Justin Worley will be Tennessee’s starting quarterback. Just no way.

After all, there’s a more mobile quarterback named Nathan Peterman with a better arm alongside him on the depth chart. Peterman was even recruited to Cincinnati by then-head coach Butch Jones, who now just happens to be the head coach at Tennessee.

And then there are those freshman. Wow, those freshmen. Joshua Dobbs is a braniac that can run and throw. Riley Ferguson is a strong-armed, confident passer that racked up high school championships like they were wide-open screen passes.

Yet there was Worley on Wednesday, looking every bit the starter. He was poised as the first speaker of Tennessee’s preseason media conference. Confidence? Worley seemed to have plenty.

He didn’t know the preseason depth chart had him bracketed with Peterman. Moreover, he didn’t seem to care.

“No,” he said flatly when asked about the very tentative lineup that was released on Tuesday. “The whole offseason we’ve been working, both Nate and I. I guess the quarterback battle is going to continue on into fall camp. Both of us are going to try our hardest to win the spot and earn the trust of the coaches.”

Really? He hadn’t even glanced at the depth chart which is readily available online?

“No,” I haven’t seen it,” Worley confirmed.

Even though he’s a junior, Worley hasn’t done nearly enough to head off those that question his ability to be a full-time SEC quarterback. He has completed 57-percent of his passes with five interceptions and one touchdown. One reporter seemed to think Worley might be better suited to assess his eventual replacement than throw passes.

“Both of them are really smart,” Worley said when asked about Dobbs and Ferguson. “They’ve really picked up the offense well. Both have transitioned onto the field throwing the ball well. Getting on time with these receivers, that’s a hard thing.

“They’ve transitioned well from high school to the college setting so far. It’s been exciting to see and it’s been exciting to be a part of it.”

Perhaps that’s why Worley is discounted. He’s said all the right things. He didn’t even complain when the previous staff burned his redshirt year with no hesitation. Maybe he’s just so nice.

Nice or not, Worley was the first face of Tennessee’s 2013 football season on Wednesday. That wasn’t an accident. He wasn’t a fill-in because Peterman couldn’t make it. Those that speak to the media are chosen by the head coach.

“He’s consistent,” coach Butch Jones said. “You know, we talk about consistency and performance. I always say `I want a McDonald’s team. What’s a McDonald’s team? You go anywhere around the country and you order a No. 1 meal, you know what you’re getting.

“That’s what we want out of our quarterbacks, consistency‚ĶJustin has been that. We’ve challenged him and you know what you’re getting every single day.”

No offense to fast food, but Tennessee fans would prefer Calhoun’s ribs over a McRib Sandwich. Can Dobbs or Ferguson be more than a value meal and start the season?

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic,” Jones said. “Is it difficult? Absolutely. We’re going to play the quarterback who can manage the game for us, take care of the football for Tennessee, and put us in the right situation. We expect our quarterback to be the alpha male of the offense. He is the leader.”

When asked if Jones would like to name a starting quarterback early in camp, he said, “Yes, I would, unless it’s really, really close. If someone comes in and distances themselves and really takes hold of this football team and is their leader, we’re going to name a starting quarterback. I’m not an individual who likes to play a number of quarterbacks.”

Worley said he’d also like for Jones to name a starter soon. Of course he hopes he’s the one who beats the bracket. Mere presence alone will go a long way to naming a starter.

“When things start going awry, they’re all going to look to him,” Jones said, referring to UT’s eventual starting quarterback. “He’s the one who is in control.”

Despite the naysayers, Worley looked the part on Wednesday.

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