Stephens says 'it made me sick'

QB quits Vols after loss of first-team snaps

Quarterback competition gave way to attrition Thursday at Tennessee.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Nick Stephens quit the team with little more than a week remaining in UT's first spring practice under new coach Derek Dooley.

"In light of the way the first eight practices have gone and some of the competition we have created, he doesn't want to be here," Dooley said after practice. "It was an amicable discussion.

"He'll probably go look at some places that can assure him of a starting position. We hate to lose Nick but I certainly understand."

Stephens told the News Sentinel in a telephone interview he probably would transfer to a school in his home state of Texas.

His departure leaves junior college transfer Matt Simms as the leading candidate to succeed Jonathan Crompton as UT's starting quarterback. He will compete with freshman Tyler Bray, who, like Simms, was given more practice reps with the first team Tuesday, after the coaches evaluated last Saturday's scrimmage.

The loss of first-team reps set the stage for Stephens' exit.

"It made me sick," Stephens said. "It was probably one of the hardest things I've had to cope with in a long time, especially since I felt like up until that scrimmage I was having a really good spring."

Stephens, who backed up Crompton last season, admitted after the scrimmage that he had performed poorly.

"I was just playing uptight," he said. "I'd never really played like that.

"To me, it was like that was not fun but I felt like I had established myself pretty well in the seven practices before that. I wasn't expecting any major changes. When that happened, I was surprised."

Stephens said he had discussed his play with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who also was an assistant under Kiffin.

"He just said 'work on timing,' " Stephens said. "That was really the only thing he was telling me to work on. When he was telling me that, it just kind of backed up the thoughts in my mind that I was playing pretty well - of course, minus that scrimmage. But I'll be the first one to take the blame for that scrimmage."

Dooley also was surprised. He didn't expect Stephens to make a decision before the conclusion of spring practice April 17.

"What I told Nick, I wished he had played it out and competed through the spring," Dooley said. "But it's a fifth-year quarterback who hasn't played. So I can understand the emotion.

Stephens played sparingly last season behind Crompton, who won the starting job in preseason under former coach Lane Kiffin. In 2008, Stephens started six games after Crompton played poorly in the first month.

But he couldn't hold the job for the remainder of the season. His last start at UT was against South Carolina in the ninth game of 2008.

Although Stephens had an advantage in experience over Simms and Bray, he lost ground this spring, but not just because of that one scrimmage, according to Dooley.

"It was a compilation of seven practices (and the scrimmage)," Dooley said. "Certainly, you give the scrimmage a little more weight because it is a game situation. The important thing is do you see a consistent trend when you evaluate. If someone has a bad scrimmage, if there wasn't a consistent trend, maybe it won't alarm you as much."

Dooley said he didn't feel as though Stephens thought the coaches had "written him off" in the quarterback competition but that "he didn't want to risk (staying at UT past the spring semester)."

"Because of that, he would rather just go play down at a smaller school (where he would be eligible this fall)," Dooley said.

Dooley didn't consider the possibility of Stephens leaving in re-allocating the first-team reps following the scrimmage.

"It was in my mind that it was not easy for a fifth-year senior (to lose first-team snaps)," Dooley said. "I told him (about the decision) first. I think the best thing to do is be honest. I was being very honest about what we were doing and what our evaluation was.

"I didn't think it was fair to him to string him along in case we needed him if he was a backup. The right thing to do is to be honest.

"Our program will be fine."

But the program is shorthanded following the second head-coaching change in the last two years. Stephens is the third prominent player to leave the Vols this spring, although sophomore running back Bryce Brown's status is still murky.

Sophomore Aaron Douglas, the only returning starter in the offensive line, quit the team for personal reasons. Brown, Kiffin's most heralded recruit, has not participated in spring practice and is expected to transfer.

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Dave Hooker contributed to this report.

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Comments » 183

tlallman writes:

Good luck Nick.

tnaseevol writes:

I still don't understand.....Dooley says we'll be fine.....hope he knows of what he speaks....IMO....this sounds to me like a BS lawyer talking.

Or NS could be that bad. Hope he does really well at another school.

This is my opinion, so lay off!!!!

basevol31#584179 writes:

WOW!!! I feel ya Nick...That's tough

SmokeDog72 writes:

What a freaking baby. I thought he had more resolve and a better head on his shoulders. Quite a few QB's at UT have had to wait their turn. Look at Tee Martin, look as Crompton. I don't think we need a QB that is going to throw in the towel that quickly. One bad scrimmage. Leaving your teammates of five years for that? I sure hope his life goes smoothly from here out. I still think the old saying "winners never quit and quitters never win" holds true.

Hope Simms and Bray are picking up the offense. Also hope they can handle lots of adversity. Next season is sure to test their character.

ThugTillIDie writes:

College Football Live on ESPN is listing UT's notable returnees as Rogan and Douglas. D'OH! Now we lose our QB too? Oy vey. What is 4-8 going to do to this town?

vols2#227315 writes:

It should be Tyler Bray job to lose, we do not need the simm transfer to start at UT. He could not start at Louisville. Better watch out for his dad on ESPN.

Bigger_Al writes:

I did not expect to see Nick leaving the program like this. I had faith he could do it, but you have to have the confidence and fortitude to survive the downfalls in order to have success. Certainly, he had to perfrom to keep the #1 spot.

I think that if he was certain that he was the best QB, he would stick around and let it be proven on the field.

V_O_L_S_GO_VOLS_GO writes:

I hate to say it, but did we really not see this coming? Hate to lose the kid, had a great heart, but I never really saw the "leader" in him. It was always just aggression, and he kinda just gave up, or at least that's how it seems, now that he's lost first team reps. He had the whole spring and summer left to redeem that. Good luck to him, though. Wish he would have transferred down a division to save a year of eligibility. On the bright side, at least we're still in it with young QB talent and now have another scholly open.

tnaseevol writes:

in response to vols2#227315:

It should be Tyler Bray job to lose, we do not need the simm transfer to start at UT. He could not start at Louisville. Better watch out for his dad on ESPN.

Oh Simms will start. Pop Simms is calling his son every day to see how he's doing! Glad Pop is still very interested in how son's doing! Just wonder if he's talking to CDD everyday also.

As I said...just wonderin'

VolFaninDC writes:

Every day I get more afraid to check in on this site as I know all I'll do is read the latest piece of bad news for our football program; losses, coaches fired, coaches quitting, arrests, players quitting, more losses, rules violations, and more losses.

It is going to take more than two years I fear to right how bad it's become. I will be a die-hard Vol fan the rest of my life, but zeesh can it get any worse?

V_O_L_S_GO_VOLS_GO writes:

in response to tnaseevol:

I still don't understand.....Dooley says we'll be fine.....hope he knows of what he speaks....IMO....this sounds to me like a BS lawyer talking.

Or NS could be that bad. Hope he does really well at another school.

This is my opinion, so lay off!!!!

Geez, put up a wall, will ya? :)

flafan2001 writes:

Every SEC school has now designated UT as their homecoming game. Top talent has left, mid major coach with a sub .500 record.
Attention all 1 and 2 star recruits- several opportunities at UT for early playing time.

keepitreal4vols writes:

Go chase your rainbow.

tnaseevol writes:

in response to V_O_L_S_GO_VOLS_GO:

Geez, put up a wall, will ya? :)

HUH?? Sorry, had a ruff day, and I don't want my wittle feelings hurt cuz I'm tired!

:-)

tngl4ut writes:

Some of his performances used to make me sick.

RoadTrip writes:

Simms is the bridge to the future - which currently is Bray and Nance. CDD and CJC are setting a plan for the long term future - not just today. If Simms plays great he has the reins for a couple of years. If he plays just OK - they will blend in the young 'uns until one clearly wins the job just like in the Manning/Stewart years.

Nick is doing the right thing for himself. For whatever reason he is not going to get the opportunity to win the job at UT. I wish him the best and much success at whatever he chooses to do.

VolsToTheWall writes:

in response to imnotDC:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

toooo soon

TommyJack writes:

I'm sure NS thinks he got screwed. Maybe he did.

tloutn writes:

in response to flafan2001:

Every SEC school has now designated UT as their homecoming game. Top talent has left, mid major coach with a sub .500 record.
Attention all 1 and 2 star recruits- several opportunities at UT for early playing time.

Hey, here's something you should be used to.... F - U!

utchuckster writes:

For whatever reason he is not going to get the opportunity to win the job at UT.
He quit-that is the reason

riversetvol writes:

It doesn't make much sense to start a senior qb on a team that is going 4-8 or 5-7(and would if Peyton was the QB)
Nick is one of many players and coaches whose career was destroyed by the fat slob of a former coach we had.
We wish him well wherever he goes.

clayrun1 writes:

A true Vols fan doesn't talk bad about there team. Give it a rest and let coach D.D. have a chance to show us what he can do.I just feel that most folks are taking there anger of Kiffen out on coach D.D. ........ I bet the kiffens are cracking up at Vol fans because you must know that reads our headlines everyday.

vol75 writes:

Dooley is building the program the right way. Being honest with people hurts in the short run, but is best in the long run. Compared to the previous snake oil salesman who shall remain namesless, Dooley is a straight shooter, a man of integrity and high expectations. So far I like what I see.

VOLPhan writes:

in response to ThugTillIDie:

College Football Live on ESPN is listing UT's notable returnees as Rogan and Douglas. D'OH! Now we lose our QB too? Oy vey. What is 4-8 going to do to this town?

Oy vey??? I got your number big guy...

CoverOrange writes:

in response to steviejanowski:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He didn't quit life, he quit a team, a team that doesn't need him. A team that loses players every year and some how survives. A team that doesn't need just one or two players that will make the difference between a 10-2 season and a 5-7 season. We are going to be 5-7 or 6-6 or 7-5, regardless.

When you were told you were too short, fat, skinny, tall to play college ball, did you walk on anyway? Did you study film all night and hit the training room all night? No? Or did you have better opportunities to do something else with better chances of success?

Would GM be better off if they had quit building gas guzzlers years ago? Would Carrot Top and Joe Piscopo have been better off if they quit bodybuilding when their comedy started stinking? Would Tiger Woods have been better off winning the Masters and quitting mastering women?

How long does it take to realize that it feels better to stop hitting your head against a brick wall and go in a different direction? Quitting a useless cause is not stupid or cowardly or necessarily selfishness.

99% of guys in HS never play football after graduation. Of the 1% that play in college, 99% of those never play organized ball after running out of eligibility. Nick loves the game and this is his last year to play organized ball. This is the rest of his life, let him live it. UT will go on without him.

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

Stephens and Simms both had a lousy scrimmage. This makes no sense. Is something not right with our QB coaching?

vol75 writes:

in response to riversetvol:

It doesn't make much sense to start a senior qb on a team that is going 4-8 or 5-7(and would if Peyton was the QB)
Nick is one of many players and coaches whose career was destroyed by the fat slob of a former coach we had.
We wish him well wherever he goes.

The negative energy on these replies sometimes gets down right sickening. Phillip Fulmer represented Tennessee with loyalty and class. He had a positive influence on countless young men. It's time to lay off and move on..

tnaseevol writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

He didn't quit life, he quit a team, a team that doesn't need him. A team that loses players every year and some how survives. A team that doesn't need just one or two players that will make the difference between a 10-2 season and a 5-7 season. We are going to be 5-7 or 6-6 or 7-5, regardless.

When you were told you were too short, fat, skinny, tall to play college ball, did you walk on anyway? Did you study film all night and hit the training room all night? No? Or did you have better opportunities to do something else with better chances of success?

Would GM be better off if they had quit building gas guzzlers years ago? Would Carrot Top and Joe Piscopo have been better off if they quit bodybuilding when their comedy started stinking? Would Tiger Woods have been better off winning the Masters and quitting mastering women?

How long does it take to realize that it feels better to stop hitting your head against a brick wall and go in a different direction? Quitting a useless cause is not stupid or cowardly or necessarily selfishness.

99% of guys in HS never play football after graduation. Of the 1% that play in college, 99% of those never play organized ball after running out of eligibility. Nick loves the game and this is his last year to play organized ball. This is the rest of his life, let him live it. UT will go on without him.

Good post

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

in response to tnaseevol:

Oh Simms will start. Pop Simms is calling his son every day to see how he's doing! Glad Pop is still very interested in how son's doing! Just wonder if he's talking to CDD everyday also.

As I said...just wonderin'

And I'm wondering if Phil Simms is the only QB coach Tennessee has right now, even with his real day job.

Brentwoodvol writes:

in response to tnaseevol:

I still don't understand.....Dooley says we'll be fine.....hope he knows of what he speaks....IMO....this sounds to me like a BS lawyer talking.

Or NS could be that bad. Hope he does really well at another school.

This is my opinion, so lay off!!!!

I can't speak for coach, but if I could I would probably say this sounds like BS fan talking. Just saying!!!

tnaseevol writes:

in response to Brentwoodvol:

I can't speak for coach, but if I could I would probably say this sounds like BS fan talking. Just saying!!!

More likely than not!!!! :-)

RJ_Vol writes:

Train wreck. Hamilton has lost control. Whether Stephens is going to start or not, you do what you have to do to keep him. Thanks to Kiff and Dooley...it's going to take three years just to get our scholarship numbers back. Questionable happenings in Knoxville. Hamilton has lost control of the athletic department. His football hires are highly suspect. Thank goodness for Bruce Pearl.

LadyVolsEighTimes writes:

I hate this for the man/boy.

However if he buckled under the preassure of a scrimage, he could never have handled the preassure of Top Flite SEC Competition.

We have reached a point where Seniors are no longer the greatest players. If they were great they would have went to the Draft as Juniors! Skilled position players must be starters as Sophmores, or really need to work on their education.

You can not build a program around a Senior, and damn sure not a fifth year senior!

Does it stink? Is it unfair? As a Sports fan, NO! As a Humanitarian yes! Nick will never be a NFL QB, we all know that, so how the heck could we expect him to be a BCS Champ QB?

With that a given, how can a Coach be expected to waste a year of building on something that can't be built on?

kti5783 writes:

I fail to see how the word prominent applies to Nick Stevens. Sorry things didn't work out for him, but I'm glad I'll never have to here him give another interview.

10volunteers98 writes:

in response to imnotDC:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You`re a real funny man,DC.Why don`t you try being a stand-up comedian?

RoyaltyVol writes:

I say whatever is best for the team! Just because your a senior doesn't entitle you to a starting position, that has to be earned, and Stephens has never earned it. Good luck to you Nick, we still wish you the best.

tnaseevol writes:

in response to LadyVolsEighTimes:

I hate this for the man/boy.

However if he buckled under the preassure of a scrimage, he could never have handled the preassure of Top Flite SEC Competition.

We have reached a point where Seniors are no longer the greatest players. If they were great they would have went to the Draft as Juniors! Skilled position players must be starters as Sophmores, or really need to work on their education.

You can not build a program around a Senior, and damn sure not a fifth year senior!

Does it stink? Is it unfair? As a Sports fan, NO! As a Humanitarian yes! Nick will never be a NFL QB, we all know that, so how the heck could we expect him to be a BCS Champ QB?

With that a given, how can a Coach be expected to waste a year of building on something that can't be built on?

IMO you are right CDD had it in mind all along not to waste time on NS because he knew he was here for one year only. But the whole Orange Nation would have raised Holy He11 if he had ignored NS and went straight to working with Simms and Bray. Dooley is smart...like a lawyer!
So he started off with NS then switched to Simms in the hopes that NS would leave on his own, and he did!!! So no one will hold CDD responsible.

This isn't too far-fetched is it?

Oh well, I had fun with it!

mbible1utk#324980 writes:

Hate to say it, but if it is that easy for him to quit, I wouldn't want him on the field against the Florida's and Alabama's... not much in life goes your way, but the ones who succeed in the end don't give up when a break doesn't go their way (they try harder).

RoyaltyVol writes:

The Vols just improved with the loss of Stephens. Also we will be better off without players like Bryce Brown who don't know what they want. We need players who are all Vol, 100%.

deputy658 writes:

In response to FLAFAN2001 I expect the VOLS to thump the Gayters in Sept. no matter who the QB is and I also expect the VOLS to have a chance to win every single game . Have faith in coach DD and the VOLS . Question for BIGGUNNS44 . Doe's the 44 represent your IQ ? just curious. And by the way GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

movol77 writes:

Nick who?

Oh yeah, good kid. He left.

Now, let's move on.

BamaVol writes:

in response to flafan2001:

Every SEC school has now designated UT as their homecoming game. Top talent has left, mid major coach with a sub .500 record.
Attention all 1 and 2 star recruits- several opportunities at UT for early playing time.

Can't have 1 & 2 stars, they're all headed to gators

jcherrie#219531 (Inactive) writes:

He can't be as sick as I was when I read his scrimmage stats. 3/9 for 6 yards! I'm ready to puke while typing this!

jcherrie#219531 (Inactive) writes:

Yeah, yeah 4-8. If we're 4-8 now we were 2-10 with Stephens at the helm.

FWBVol writes:

I don't know Nick Stephens and I'll probably never meet the young man, but, like others, I do question his heart.

CDD took snaps away from him in a QB battle before a starter was named, which, if most fans remember, Dooley said probably wouldn't happen before fall practice starts. It seems to me it wouldn't have hurt him any to have at least stuck it out annother week to see where things stood after the Orange and White game.

Maybe Stephens should have called a guy named Pat Ryan and talked with him a little. Ryan was a guy that started just a handful of games for Bill Battle and Johnny Majors while playing behind Randy Wallace and Jimmy Streater. Ryan stuck it out and had a nice NFL career as a backup QB.

I would have loved for him to have talked to Jerry Colquitt, who, from what I understand, felt as if he had won the starting job from Heath Shuler prior to Colquitt's redshirt sophomore season, when Shuler was a true sophomore. Instead of quitting, Colquitt road the bench for two years waiting for his turn to start, and when it finally came, he injured his knee in the first series of the season opener against UCLA. I think Colquitt would relish a healthy knee and one more chance to compete for the starting job.

I wonder how easy it will be for Stephens to find that perfect fit in Texas that will let him come in and proclaim him the starting QB before he's had one snap in practice.

I don't hate or dislike Nick Stephens, I just wish he would have gone the distance.

Mark63 writes:

I have been hearing that the QB competition, was getting really tough, and Stephens felt, that he was not going to be the starting QB, and felt it was time to go. Hie did a very good job, but I think he was push too hard, and that was the factor, of how he made his choice to leave UT.

It is the same, at all position. Dooley, is trying to get this team, mode into another Alabama team, like his mentor did. And that will be a factor on opening day. If we see a bashing, on that day. This team, will be up high in the poll's That is very good with me, but there will be some, that will disagree with me on that. They would say, that you don't need to do that.

But this is football, and if you don't learn to have a killer instinct, then sit on the chair, and watch the big show you how to do it.

govols2104 writes:

in response to SmokeDog72:

What a freaking baby. I thought he had more resolve and a better head on his shoulders. Quite a few QB's at UT have had to wait their turn. Look at Tee Martin, look as Crompton. I don't think we need a QB that is going to throw in the towel that quickly. One bad scrimmage. Leaving your teammates of five years for that? I sure hope his life goes smoothly from here out. I still think the old saying "winners never quit and quitters never win" holds true.

Hope Simms and Bray are picking up the offense. Also hope they can handle lots of adversity. Next season is sure to test their character.

couldn't agree more!

CroKev writes:

Look, I'm not willing to question the guy's heart; he's a 5th year senior who started 2 years ago and then sat on the bench behind Crompton even when Crompton was terrible during the first half of 2009. The kid has been through a lot. My only question is, 'Why didn't he wait until Spring practice was over and until he had the chance to prove himself in the OW game?' If he had gone 10 out of 12 in that game, the scrimmage last week would have been forgotten. Nick, you invested way too much time at UT to not have waited one more week. Anyway, what is done is done. Good luck to you.

DLuckySeven writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

He didn't quit life, he quit a team, a team that doesn't need him. A team that loses players every year and some how survives. A team that doesn't need just one or two players that will make the difference between a 10-2 season and a 5-7 season. We are going to be 5-7 or 6-6 or 7-5, regardless.

When you were told you were too short, fat, skinny, tall to play college ball, did you walk on anyway? Did you study film all night and hit the training room all night? No? Or did you have better opportunities to do something else with better chances of success?

Would GM be better off if they had quit building gas guzzlers years ago? Would Carrot Top and Joe Piscopo have been better off if they quit bodybuilding when their comedy started stinking? Would Tiger Woods have been better off winning the Masters and quitting mastering women?

How long does it take to realize that it feels better to stop hitting your head against a brick wall and go in a different direction? Quitting a useless cause is not stupid or cowardly or necessarily selfishness.

99% of guys in HS never play football after graduation. Of the 1% that play in college, 99% of those never play organized ball after running out of eligibility. Nick loves the game and this is his last year to play organized ball. This is the rest of his life, let him live it. UT will go on without him.

I think I understand what you are saying. Would you keep calling Grandma,Grandma if she had gonads? No you would quit and call her Grandpa!

richvol writes:

When you're in the moment the benefit is difficult to see. This is for the best in the long run.

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