Tennessee's search for its future quarterback so far has been marked by surprises rather than success.
Thursday's surprise arrived via the Mt. San Antonio Community College Web site, which announced that quarterback Nick Lamaison had signed with the UT. Lamaison can play this season and will have three years of college eligibility.
Almost as surprising as the announcement itself was the response. UT didn't confirm the signing. And Lamaison would neither confirm nor deny the report in an interview with the News Sentinel. By late afternoon, the announcement had been removed from the school's Web site.
For the sake of discussion, let's assume the lack of confirmation is a mere technicality, attributable to something as simple and prevalent as recruiting paranoia, which often reaches the frantic level when quarterbacks are involved.
Even if the announcement had been confirmed, endorsed and praised by the involved parties, you might be reluctant to embrace the idea of a juco quarterback making meaningful contributions to an SEC offense. I respect your hesitation.
Since the league went to divisional play in 1992, name all the junior college transfers who have distinguished themselves as first-team All-SEC quarterbacks.
Then, on the still blank sheet of paper, write the names of junior college quarterbacks who have started for an SEC school since 1992. A couple of examples come quickly to mind. I'll give you a hint: Both of their coaches were fired.
Last year, junior college transfer Chris Todd, who originally signed with Texas Tech, was named Auburn's starting quarterback - for a while. Maybe if Todd's injured shoulder had healed faster, he would have held the starting position for an entire season. And maybe his offensive coordinator wouldn't have been fired by mid-season. And maybe his head coach wouldn't have been fired by the end of the season.
Before Todd, there was Brent Schaeffer at Ole Miss. Schaeffer was good enough to start at quarterback for UT as a true freshman. After establishing himself as a two-sport athlete (if you count the off-the-field incident involving a baseball bat), Schaeffer was encouraged to continue his college education elsewhere. Following a junior college stopover at the College of the Sequoias, Schaeffer transferred to Ole Miss, where Ed Orgeron, who is now UT's assistant head coach, immediately installed him as his starting quarterback.
That didn't work out famously for Schaeffer or Orgeron.
Recent SEC history aside, Lamaison could still fill a need for the Vols. They wouldn't ask him to be the next Peyton Manning. They need another warm body behind Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens, just in case. Remember the 2004 season when UT lost two quarterbacks to injury? Remember this spring when the offensive line wilted under the heat of their teammates' pass rush?
Although there's little traffic on the quarterback bridge from junior college to the SEC, Lamaison's signing isn't the biggest surprise of UT's search. It's not even runnerup.
First surprise: UT first-year coach Lane Kiffin told high school All-American quarterback Tajh Boyd, who had committed to the former staff, that Kiffin's offense wouldn't suit him. So advised, Boyd eventually signed with Clemson.
What's more surprising than a coach being so candid with a recruit?
I'm also mystified by the recruitment of California quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who has said he will announce his decision later this month after narrowing his choices to UT, Southern California and Florida. Speculation favors USC, which isn't that far from Scroggins' home and has become a virtual NFL farm team for quarterbacks.
But if you want to play early in your college career - and most recruits do - why would you pick USC over UT?
If Scroggins is as good as recruiters think, he could start at UT as a freshman. Even if he is that good, he could be fourth string as a freshman on a USC depth chart that is already three-deep in former high school All-American quarterbacks, including precocious true freshman Matt Barkley.
Sure, USC is a great place for a quarterback if he wants to become NFL-ready. It's also a great place for a quarterback to improve his dexterity with a clipboard.
Maybe Scroggins is so confident (or irrational enough) to believe he can beat out the talented competition ahead of him, even through it has a head start. Or maybe, there's another surprise in store for UT's quarterback hunt.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.