Nick Stephens knew it the moment it happened.
It occurred during a workout last week when the Tennessee quarterback slipped and quickly stuck his hand out to break his fall. Instead, he broke his wrist.
“It bent all the way back,” Stephens said Tuesday.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. With a new coaching staff in place, every position, including quarterback, is up for grabs.
“It’s very frustrating, but you can’t dwell on something like this,” the junior said. “You just have to go out and keep working.”
That means more footwork drills, more fundamental work and more time studying tape.
But, he can’t pass.
“I’m going to be doing everything like I wasn’t hurt except for throwing the football,” he said. “I don’t expect to fall behind at all. As a matter of fact, I feel I can move ahead because I’ll spend more time in the film room, more time getting mental reps so when I do step on the field, I’ll be ready to go.”
Last year, an injury at this timemight have been impossible to overcome.
UT’s offense under then coordinator Dave Clawson was predicated on complicated calls and reads. Practice time was a must.
This season, UT’s offense under head coach Lane Kiffin and coordinator Jim Chaney figures to much less complicated.
“That makes a huge difference,” Stephens said. “I almost feel completely comfortable with (this offense) right now.
“I’m not saying I know everything. I’m not saying that at all, but with the stuff that I do know, I feel comfortable going out there and running it.”
Chaney believes Stephens has what it takes to overcome the untimely setback.
“It’s not a favorable issue; it’s not at all,” Chaney said. “Nick understands that. You’ve got to make up for that somehow.
“I’m certain that Nick — being the competitive person he is — will find a way to keep up with everybody. He’ll do his due diligence to stay on top of it. He’s fallen a bit behind but he’ll catch up.”
It will be up to senior Jonathan Crompton and sophomore B.J. Coleman to handle all of the spring practice snaps. Kiffin said the two will share first-team snaps equally for now.
“First and foremost,” Chaney quipped, “we hope we don’t hyperventilate either one of them.”