John Adams: QB change doesn’t alter Vols’ identity

Running quarterback? Need a good quarterback

Derek Dooley changed starting quarterbacks Monday. The first-year Tennessee coach moved freshman Tyler Bray ahead of Matt Simms, who had started the first eight games.

Based on the team’s 2-6 start and the way Bray played in a 38-24 loss to South Carolina, the announcement was hardly surprising. But the change doesn’t resolve all the quarterback questions at UT.

Ever since Tee Martin led UT to a national championship in 1998, some fans have longed for another quarterback who could break down a defense with his legs as well as his arm.

And given what’s going on elsewhere in college football — Auburn’s Cam Newton comes to mind — the longing probably has increased.

Yet with several exceptions, UT’s offense has had a procession of stationary targets in the pocket for the last 20 years.

Martin’s running was a significant factor in the unbeaten 1998 season.

Heath Shuler could have provided a running threat at quarterback, but UT rarely expanded his role beyond that of a pocket passer. He rushed for only 73 yards his last season with the Vols in 1993.

Brent Schaeffer brought speed and elusiveness to the position as a freshman in 2004 but eventually was beaten out by another freshman, Erik Ainge.

Ainge fit the UT prototype. So do Bray and Simms.

Although coaches have changed, the prototype hasn’t.

In the transition from Phillip Fulmer to Lane Kiffin to Dooley, the Vols have continued to rely on drop-back passers. Justin Worley, UT’s lone quarterback commitment for the 2011 class, is in the same club.

Despite the depth chart and the commitment list, Dooley isn’t averse to running quarterbacks. And he would be willing to tweak his system to accommodate one.

“I think the mistake is that everybody says, ‘We need a running quarterback’ if you don’t have a running quarterback,” he said. “And if you have a running quarterback but he’s not any good, then you need a passing quarterback.

“Well, what you need is a good quarterback. ... If he’s a good quarterback and he’s a special runner and not a special passer, then you shape the offense around his special skills.

If he’s a good quarterback and he’s a special passer, you shape the offense around his special skills.”

Newton’s special skills have been on display one Saturday after another this fall. When Auburn signed him out of Blinn College, he transformed them from a good team to a national championship contender.

Although he has been a surprisingly effective passer, his combination of power and speed as an open-field runner has posed the greatest threat to opposing defenses. How do you account for a 6-foot-6, 250-pound sprinter at quarterback?

Newton was more interested in the Vols than former coach Kiffin was in Newton. But suppose the interest had been mutual, and Newton had signed with the Vols instead of the Tigers.

“I can assure you you’d be looking at a different offense,” Dooley said. “Now, our philosophy wouldn’t change. We’d still believe in the same things; the structure wouldn’t change too much.

“But how you get to it would be very different. Cam Newton would be good in any offense.”

Of the top 10 teams nationally in total offense, seven of them have quarterbacks who can beat you running or passing, mostly in some version of the spread option. But a more conventional offense also can benefit from a dual threat at quarterback, who can succeed even when the called play fails.

UT doesn’t have that option now. When the blocking breaks down or the receivers are covered, an incomplete pass becomes the best-case scenario.

You saw the worst-case scenario against South Carolina.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 39

TinCup writes:

Q: How do you turn a positive into a negative?

A: You let John Adams do it for you.

OrangePride writes:

John.....here is the bottom line. It is what it is. Cam Newton is at Auburn; we have Bray and Simms. So yes, the system stays the same regardless of which QB stands under center. That said, the coaches need to determine, within that system, which of the two will produce the better drives and most consistent offensive punch. This Saturday will tell us absolutely NOTHING. Either of the two would be expected to have a great game against this team. Mississippi, if Bray is still the starter, will tell us more. We will then see what Bray can do against a real SEC defense, albeit not a top defense. Or perhaps your real suggestion is that we should now be recruiting more versatile QB's and change to a pass/run system. Fine, but right now that is so far down the road it hardly bears comment. Let's just get thru these last four games and try to win at least 3....with the system and QB's we have....cause it's ALL we have! GO VOLS!

murrayvol writes:

For all the things that FHCLK had wrong he had one thing right. "A great quarterback is worth 15-20 recruits."

Cam Newton is living proof. Without him Aubie is a middlin team with 3-4 losses.

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

Um... what exactly is the point of this article?

murrayvol writes:

in response to back2z1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Maybe he was reminding him to buckle his chin strap.

RJ_Vol writes:

Spineless.

Pullingguard writes:

The article makes a lot of sense, Why? No question in college a multi-talented QB that can
pass and run is a definite advantage.. It compensates for breakdown on offensive line, and puts lot of pressure on LB's to keep them out of the passing lanes. No question that UT would not have won a N/C without the legs of Tee Martin and he could also chunk the ball, so the betterment of two worlds... This is why it still haunts me about Boyd being turned away.. Ok, Payton did really great, but he had a great supporting cast which a one dimensional QB needs in offensive line, running backs, and WR core.
So, what would a Cam Newton have done for UT? Not what he is doing at Auburn, but it would have been better than it is today at UT.

CoverOrange writes:

Cam Newton would not have been a Heisman candidate if he had come to UT. Gus Malzahn is the difference for Cam Newton and Auburn.

SummittsCourt writes:

While having a running QB may be worth a few wins if they are one in a million type QB's the best offense is always a great passing QB style offense. I'm glad Dooley isn't giving in to the lastest flavor of QB of late. It would be nice to have a Cam Newton, but it would be better to have a Peyton Manning, another one in a million player.

HtownVol writes:

The story will be different in 2 years.

Bray leads UT to a 10 win season. Will he return for his SR year?

Is that unrealistic??

VolOak writes:

How many running quarterbacks do you see in the NFL? If they do run it is generally to save their hide...and then they slide to the turf before they are carried off on a stretcher.

If the professional model is the drop back passer as the Vols seem to prefer...isn't it a matter of getting the QB the support personnel he needs to light up the score board.

Do you think Newton will continue to run the ball if he goes to the NFL (as surely he will)? The pros don't want their field general to be sitting on the sidelines nursing a broken bone or a concusssion.

Just my opinioni.

nor_cal_vol writes:

I thought this was a decent, thought-provoking article.
The point? We are limited at the QB position as we are at nearly every position - thus, the state of our program.
However, we still have a shot at a bowl, as hard as that is to believe, as limited as it might be.
We still have a shot.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

John Adams your pitful down right pitful,i hope it aint long before your lookin for another job!!!! Ut fans cant stand you!!!!!!

everydayisorange writes:

in response to back2z1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Isn't that what the Gators has done this year? lol

everydayisorange writes:

in response to everydayisorange:

Isn't that what the Gators has done this year? lol

I called UF something different, but the KNS political correctness police changed it! So much for the first ammendment!

Orangeblood13 writes:

Mr Adams dances around his corner office to the sound of tennessee's gloom and doom

Thank you mr obvious

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

I can think of several running QB's crushed by good defenses. End of story.

The list is long John

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to VolOak:

How many running quarterbacks do you see in the NFL? If they do run it is generally to save their hide...and then they slide to the turf before they are carried off on a stretcher.

If the professional model is the drop back passer as the Vols seem to prefer...isn't it a matter of getting the QB the support personnel he needs to light up the score board.

Do you think Newton will continue to run the ball if he goes to the NFL (as surely he will)? The pros don't want their field general to be sitting on the sidelines nursing a broken bone or a concusssion.

Just my opinioni.

Excellent point..I didn't see many QB draws this week in any NFL highlight films.Auburn hit the lotto with this guy because without him they probably wouldn't even be top 10.Gus is going to try to ride him to a Heisman and possible NC..In the draft he would probably be drafted behind someone like Kellen Moore or Keenum..Newton is a better passer than Tebow and if I was to compare him to an NFL QB; he is like a young Donovan McNabb.

volsfannsc writes:

KNS is obviously attempting to create a QB controversy that isn't there. Fifty percent of their articles since Saturday have been QB related. Seems to me this whole thing is sensationalized to the hilt. Currently we have two average inexperienced QB's that Dooley is trying to see who has the stuff. If this were an article about car racing, the analogy would be "Jeff Gordon Chooses New Car" when in reality, all they did was decide which suspension setting to use in Sunday's race. Maybe it is the obligation of the news media to blow things up out of porportion, but I for one get tired of the spin. I would rather read about why Cody Pope is still not dressing out, is the defensive scheme the reason Jackson isn't the playmaker he was last year, etc. Silly me....wanting to read about NEWS !

Brillovol writes:

in response to OrangePride:

John.....here is the bottom line. It is what it is. Cam Newton is at Auburn; we have Bray and Simms. So yes, the system stays the same regardless of which QB stands under center. That said, the coaches need to determine, within that system, which of the two will produce the better drives and most consistent offensive punch. This Saturday will tell us absolutely NOTHING. Either of the two would be expected to have a great game against this team. Mississippi, if Bray is still the starter, will tell us more. We will then see what Bray can do against a real SEC defense, albeit not a top defense. Or perhaps your real suggestion is that we should now be recruiting more versatile QB's and change to a pass/run system. Fine, but right now that is so far down the road it hardly bears comment. Let's just get thru these last four games and try to win at least 3....with the system and QB's we have....cause it's ALL we have! GO VOLS!

Well played, sir.

c_h_melton#380664 writes:

in response to andforhisnexttune:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The real difference between the 97 and 98 team is the 98 team realized they couldn't rely on Peyton, and they played as a team.

Had the team played for Peyton like they did for Tee, we would have back to back titles.

As glad as I was for the 98 team, it is so unfair to compare Tee to Peyton.

OrangePride writes:

in response to Driving_Ms_Dooley:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, I did say it wasn't a very good defense. But, you're right that the Ole Miss defense is, like us, one of the worst in the SEC. So, we may have to wait til the Kentucky game to get any real read on the differences between the two QB's, if much at all. I just hope these two QB's can support and help one another improve because we have to do with what we have....that's the bottom line.

murrayvol writes:

Running qbs don't usually fare well vs very good defenses. Alabama has one of those defenses.

Would imagine Gus will consider alternatives to Newton off tackle and outside when the Iron Bowl rolls around.

joeaubie writes:

I've intentionally not posted anything this season, as I didn't want to be accused of being a troll of the ilk of your usual antagonists, but this is an interesting discussion, so a few mostly uninformed observations:

1) Agreed on playing the hand you are dealt. Dooley came in so late last year, there were really no dual QBs available, even if we wanted one.

2) Having a dual threat QB doesn't mean you have to change the whole offense, just as having a one dimensional does not. Auburn had a stiff legged Chris Todd last year and won 8 games and coulda/shoulda won maybe 2 more if we had had any depth on D. Makes you wonder even more about Kiffin and letting Boyd go.

3) On that note, and a serious question, was UT in the running for Newton? I must have missed it, thought it was Miss St and Auburn all along. A lot of comments imply that UT could have had a shot if they wanted.

4) I take exception with Driving Ms Dooley's comment on Newton having character issues. Fully acknowledging my orange and blue colored glasses, he has not made excuses for purchasing a stolen laptop (He didn't steal it for all of you who continue to throw that barb). He admits he screwed up and takes all the consequences of that like a man. Sounds like pretty decent character to me. Is Smith of "bad character" because he did something ill advised the other night on the strip? No. Bad character, on the other hand, is Nukese and his thuggery, not knowing or caring about the diff in right and wrong, or selling coke outside the athletic dorms on campus in Tuscaloosa, while breeding pit bulls for fighting on the side (couldn't resist)

CarlChilders writes:

Peyton and Brandon Stewart both looked equal for a few games in 94 until Peyton won out. Tee Martin started out slow as well. Bray deserves the chance. What's to lose at this point?

I get the feeling Adams was struggling for an article.

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

Tactic du jour. The important thing to remember is to HAVE a useful "identity". UT has shaped toward pro-style QBs and RECEIVERS. I have noticed a drop off in the relative talent level of receivers at Florida since Urban (as compared to the Ole Ball Coach). Spurrier may pull off the once impossible of winning the SEC at USC by having an "identity".

RollTideJoe writes:

in response to joeaubie:

I've intentionally not posted anything this season, as I didn't want to be accused of being a troll of the ilk of your usual antagonists, but this is an interesting discussion, so a few mostly uninformed observations:

1) Agreed on playing the hand you are dealt. Dooley came in so late last year, there were really no dual QBs available, even if we wanted one.

2) Having a dual threat QB doesn't mean you have to change the whole offense, just as having a one dimensional does not. Auburn had a stiff legged Chris Todd last year and won 8 games and coulda/shoulda won maybe 2 more if we had had any depth on D. Makes you wonder even more about Kiffin and letting Boyd go.

3) On that note, and a serious question, was UT in the running for Newton? I must have missed it, thought it was Miss St and Auburn all along. A lot of comments imply that UT could have had a shot if they wanted.

4) I take exception with Driving Ms Dooley's comment on Newton having character issues. Fully acknowledging my orange and blue colored glasses, he has not made excuses for purchasing a stolen laptop (He didn't steal it for all of you who continue to throw that barb). He admits he screwed up and takes all the consequences of that like a man. Sounds like pretty decent character to me. Is Smith of "bad character" because he did something ill advised the other night on the strip? No. Bad character, on the other hand, is Nukese and his thuggery, not knowing or caring about the diff in right and wrong, or selling coke outside the athletic dorms on campus in Tuscaloosa, while breeding pit bulls for fighting on the side (couldn't resist)

Typical Awburn (mispelling intentional) dragging Alabama into the fray. Alabama has had far less incidents than Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, N.Carolina, and many others. And, specifically what drug deal on campus do you refer to? Throwing loose allegations is easy. See you in four weeks!

markmayhew#221190 writes:

Other than Tee Martin and Condredge Holloway, how many great running quarterbacks has Tennessee ever had?

As to the merits of Adams' argument, ask yourself this question: It's fourth and goal from the four, with :03 on the clock, and you're behind by four points. You need to score a touchdown to win. Which Tennessee quarterback in history would you choose to run the last play of the game, for the win?

When this question was polled, Peyton Manning came in second to Holloway, for obvious reasons. That's what a running quarterback gives you.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Ole Miss brought the Alabama offense to a grinding halt a few games back...with a little luck here and there Ole Miss might have won. Now, a Nebraska team looked upon this year as so-so, is a dangerous team...because they have QB running half the plays...when he turns the corner he is going to the house...he is not surrounded by great players either...when takes off running from a fake juke pass he hits paydirt. he might have a few better players around him than the Vols...but not much better. Since Tee Martin, we have just pocket passers who complete the pass now and then...We had two QB's a lot alike...they just stood there and were sacked so many times I could not guess how many...but the first one threw few interceptions, whereby the other could when the game was on the throw a perfect pass to a player on the opposing team and hit him between the numbers who of course took it to the house. Now, the 98 team that won the national title...it was running play pulled it out...against Syracuse who was leading by two points the Vols on 25 with T. Martin was gonna throw a "Hail Mary" pass, as everyone thought the Vols were beaten. Sracuse, aware of the put three defender to rush, then eight more were spread out on defense. Instead of going for last ditch pass with the clock down to seconds, Martin took off down the middle and rambled 55 yards and was tackled in perect position in fron of Syacuse goal posts...with few seconds left the Vols pulled a miracle by making field goal just as time ran out....thus the Vols won 34 to 33 as the kick went right down the middle. Martin was the last run-pass QB we ever had. Think we could ever get another one? This was our last National Championship.

jandjhome#228397 writes:

If we win out, Music City will take us.

Mommasboy writes:

in response to joeaubie:

I've intentionally not posted anything this season, as I didn't want to be accused of being a troll of the ilk of your usual antagonists, but this is an interesting discussion, so a few mostly uninformed observations:

1) Agreed on playing the hand you are dealt. Dooley came in so late last year, there were really no dual QBs available, even if we wanted one.

2) Having a dual threat QB doesn't mean you have to change the whole offense, just as having a one dimensional does not. Auburn had a stiff legged Chris Todd last year and won 8 games and coulda/shoulda won maybe 2 more if we had had any depth on D. Makes you wonder even more about Kiffin and letting Boyd go.

3) On that note, and a serious question, was UT in the running for Newton? I must have missed it, thought it was Miss St and Auburn all along. A lot of comments imply that UT could have had a shot if they wanted.

4) I take exception with Driving Ms Dooley's comment on Newton having character issues. Fully acknowledging my orange and blue colored glasses, he has not made excuses for purchasing a stolen laptop (He didn't steal it for all of you who continue to throw that barb). He admits he screwed up and takes all the consequences of that like a man. Sounds like pretty decent character to me. Is Smith of "bad character" because he did something ill advised the other night on the strip? No. Bad character, on the other hand, is Nukese and his thuggery, not knowing or caring about the diff in right and wrong, or selling coke outside the athletic dorms on campus in Tuscaloosa, while breeding pit bulls for fighting on the side (couldn't resist)

I think its comical how Newton has no allegiance to Auburn. He has said his heart is still at UF. Basically, Auburn is his bit$%. He plays one year and leaves. I saw where someone compared him to a young Donovan McNabb. I don't see how that is...McNabb is very well spoken and has a brain. Who tells an interviewer that his heart is stll at his previous school when he is the QB and leader at another school? He will get his head knocked off if he tries to run in the NFL. He's another Jamarcus Russell in waiting.

dvols writes:

kns.....why??? who does adams have pics of?

cloudodust writes:

CDD has two roads he could travel. Simms or Bray. I don't think he is on solid footing with either one as of today. He's searching for a sign, a show of success. Bray is the future, Simms is a filler. Is it time to pull the filler and install the future..? At this point of the season and looking at the remaining schedule, I say YES. We knew 2010 would be no more than a look into tomorrow. Let's look. As always, GBO

cloudodust writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Running qbs don't usually fare well vs very good defenses. Alabama has one of those defenses.

Would imagine Gus will consider alternatives to Newton off tackle and outside when the Iron Bowl rolls around.

Agreed. Newton is but an exception to the rule. Running QB's are great, if your team has two backups with the same talent 'cause if your offense is built on the QB's legs, be prepared for that one hit that changes everything.

orange71 writes:

this article erases all doubt about john adams' knowledge, much less understanding, of football: he has none. this article is a masterpiece of illogic, and his incompetence.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Bryanbleedsorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That blood loss has made you lightheaded. Simms has gotten sacked at least as much because he holds the ball too long as he has because of the VERY YOUNG and inexperienced O-line. The latter is the reason why your criticism of the O-line coach is so far off-base.

There is also the fact that our most experienced receivers, Moore and Jones, have missed significant time with injuries which have limited their practice reps with both QBs. Our freshman receivers are not yet polished route-runners and can't get open quickly when Simms is in trouble.

I would agree that Bray is not worlds better than Simms at this point, but UT can only get at most one more year out of Simms. Bray might be "the man" for three more years.

CroKev writes:

.

RichmondKyVol writes:

in response to usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid:

Um... what exactly is the point of this article?

Adams has a quota of columns to write. Some people write because they have something to say. Others write because they have to say something.

RichmondKyVol writes:

in response to murrayvol:

For all the things that FHCLK had wrong he had one thing right. "A great quarterback is worth 15-20 recruits."

Cam Newton is living proof. Without him Aubie is a middlin team with 3-4 losses.

Newton and Tebow, but especially Tebow, remind me of tailbacks in the old single-wing days, except these guys pass more often.

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