When it comes to finding a quarterback, Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney isn't too picky. He's got two major qualifications. "Just get a kid with a brain. A brain and an arm, I think that goes a helluva long way," he said.
How's that for a simple job requirement?
"I think you can train them to do whatever you want them to do,'' Chaney said. "When they get here, they're sponges for the most part and they want to learn."
Given the choice, UT coach Lane Kiffin would rather go heavy on the brain.
"There's a lot of guys over the years with big arms that weren't very successful," he said. "There's a lot of guys that didn't have big arms that were successful because of their brains, their leadership qualities. The intangibles are so valuable at that position. It's hard to judge sometimes. That's why we continue to research and talk to as many people as we can."
As the Vols continue to evaluate quarterbacks for the 2010 class in hopes of landing the new staff's first quarterback commitment, those two factors pull a lot more weight than the system a particular quarterback played in high school.
Two prominent prospects with offers from Tennessee - Lakewood (Calif.) High School's Jesse Scroggins and Cincinnati's Andrew Hendrix - are both listed as pro-style quarterbacks by Rivals.com. Both have spent more time than many high school quarterbacks under center as well.
But evaluating quarterbacks for an offense like Kiffin's can be a little tricky, considering the proliferation of spread offenses in high schools across the country.
With most based primarily in the shotgun, a lot of prep quarterbacks don't have a lot of experience with three- and five-step drops that they would see at UT.
"It's no different than why the NFL has a difficult time with these spread offense quarterbacks, evaluating them," Kiffin said. "Because they don't see what they want to see in the NFL. No one wants that in the NFL. It hurts kids to play in that system. You've just got to find ways to evaluate them."
This spring, that included reviewing film sent back by assistant coaches during the spring evaluation period. It extended to UT's summer camps, including this weekend's camp, which Scroggins attended.
In a camp setting, coaches can put players through specific drills to get a better handle on how their skills might suit the offense. More importantly, though, Kiffin said camps help coaches gauge a player's personality and leadership skills - another key set of requirements for a successful quarterback.
"The best thing to do is when we get them to camp," Kiffin said. "We get to evaluate them and get to hang out with them and really get a feel for them."
But playing in a pro-style system in high school isn't a requirement to be recruited by Tennessee.
"Anytime you want to see people do what you want them to do," Kiffin said. "The best thing they can do is be in an offense that's similar to ours, which is under center most of the time. But that doesn't mean we limit ourselves and don't take a guy because he's not (in a pro-style offense). We've got to find out who the best guys are."
According to the recruiting services, this year's class of quarterbacks doesn't have the kind of firepower found in years past. Top-rated quarterback Phillip Sims, already committed to Alabama, is No. 58 on Rivals.com's top 100 prospects in the class of 2010.
That's in stark contrast to years past, when the top-rated quarterback was often the No. 1 overall recruit and more than one quarterback ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Still, evaluating quarterbacks isn't about stars or ratings. It's ultimately about finding a quarterback that coaches feel good about.
"It's so critical," Kiffin says. "The quarterback is the face of your franchise. This is a big deal to get this one right, these one or two guys right. We're doing everything that we can."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.