Quarterback Controversy at Tennessee?

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Updated: August 19, 2013

UT Quarterbacks

If you feel like you’ve read this story before, you probably have.

Get ready for another quarterback controversy at Tennessee. Justin Worley has been given every opportunity to seize the job through the midway point of preseason camp. The junior is the only UT quarterback with college game experience so it made sense to see if he’s ready to be a full-time starter.

So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case, especially during Saturday’s open practice in which thousands of fans looked on. The move to open practice was a good public relations move for a struggling program. However, it may now create a debate among UT fans well into the season.

First-year Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has said he’d like to settle on a starting quarterback during preseason camp and hopefully stay with that player throughout the 2013 season. Suddenly, that doesn’t seem likely. After his performance on Saturday, look for Peterman to receive more first-snaps this week.

That put the Vols in a tenuous position. Chemistry between any of UT’s quarterbacks is tough to come by if they’re constantly jockeying for practice reps. Here’s a breakdown of what each quarterback needs to do to lock down the starting job:

Joshua Dobbs

Dobbs’ best attribute is his athleticism. No, he’s not Michael Vick but he has the most ability among UT’s quatro of quarterbacks. That can help Dobbs when things aren’t going the Vols’ way.

Still, that attribute is limited by a veteran offensive line that should do a good job of protecting. Dobbs is effective with the zone read, which UT will utilize this fall. Also, Dobbs is extremely smart.

Riley Ferguson

Ask me who to pick to be the starter in 2014 and I’ll take Ferguson every time. However, he needs to do a lot of eating and working out between now and then. Former UT freshman starting quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Erik Ainge were slim. Ferguson is tiny.

Still, you constantly hear how Ferguson has that “It” factor, meaning he’s a confident leader. Ferguson could end up with an incredibly strong arm before his college career is done. He already has an above-average arm, especially for his size. Adding 20, 30 or 40 pounds should only help. Still, it might be too early to line him up against SEC defensive linemen.

Ferguson is also a better runner than he gets credit for. He was a standout basketball player in high school. However, that slight frame will just further jeopardize his health when running.

Nathan Peterman

Just keep improving. Peterman has more ability than Worley, but not by a great margin. He’s a step quicker and has a stronger arm but poor mechanics negatively affected his accuracy during spring camp.

Over the summer, the redshirt freshman has addressed his technique – primarily his footwork – and has become a more accurate passer. If he can keep that improvement up and show he can do the same in games, Worley is beatable in this competition.

Justin Worley

Erik Ainge of Tennessee Sports Radio said on Monday that one doesn’t win a UT quarterback battle by default. One should rise to the top and seize the job.

While that’s true, Worley’s best shot be to simply stay the course, limit mistakes and remind coaches he’s played against SEC competition. Worley has only completed 57.3 passes with open touchdown passes and five interceptions despite playing with a talented group of receivers and offensive linemen. While experience means something, it might not mean enough given that past production.

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