John Adams: QBs stand a lot taller in SEC

John Adams

The status of Tennessee football hasn't changed drastically from one spring to the next. But its ranking at the most important position has.

That tells you something about the SEC as well as the Vols.

Uncertainty at quarterback was the prevailing theme of coach Derek Dooley's first spring with the Vols. When this spring ends with Saturday's Orange and White Game, they have at least achieved stability at the position.

The significance of that is magnified by what's going on elsewhere in the league.

Both of UT's quarterbacks, Tyler Bray and Matt Simms, have starting experience. Some conference teams don't have one quarterback with starting experience.

It's not just a matter of experience. Bray showed great potential when he replaced Simms as the starter for the last third of the season. Despite starting just five games, he passed for 18 touchdowns as a true freshman. Only six conference quarterbacks threw more touchdown passes.

Although Simms lost the starting job to Bray, he proved his worth in clutch situations. He beat UAB with a perfectly thrown touchdown pass in overtime and demonstrated his poise in leading a fourth-quarter touchdown drive against LSU, which eventually pulled out a last-second victory.

Neither Bray nor Simms had played in an SEC game before last season. Their combination of experience and potential points to continued progress.

Other conference teams can't be as confident about improvement.

Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Kentucky all will be breaking in new quarterbacks this fall. And South Carolina could be, depending on the status of returning starter Stephen Garcia, who was suspended indefinitely this spring.

Garcia is the most experienced quarterback in the league. He also might be the least reliable, based on his less than saintly off-the-field history.

Given the uncertainty surrounding Garcia, Georgia qualifies as the only team in the SEC East better set at quarterback than Tennessee.

After excelling last season as a redshirt freshman, Georgia's Aaron Murray could emerge as the league's top quarterback. What other quarterback in the East would you take over UT's Bray?

Florida's John Brantley is coming off a dreadful season, his first as a starter. The pro-style offense implemented by new coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis might be a better fit for Brantley's skills. But his 4-for-14 passing performance in Florida's spring game was hardly assuring. Moreover, Florida's receiving corps remains questionable at best.

Vanderbilt's Larry Smith returns for his third season as a starter, a staggering fact when you consider his career pass-completion percentage is under 48 percent. Kentucky will count on Morgan Newton, who didn't dazzle anyone with his passing two years ago when he started eight games in place of an injured Mike Hartline. If Garcia isn't reinstated, South Carolina will turn to Connor Shaw, who played in eight games last season as a backup.

The West is even less impressive.

LSU returning starter Jordan Jefferson has yet to prove himself as a consistently effective passer, as evidenced by his 4-for-14 performance in the spring game. Mississippi State's Chris Relf is a powerful runner but remains a work in progress as a passer. Auburn hasn't named its next starter, but you know whoever the starter is won't top Cam Newton's Heisman act.

Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas also will have new starting quarterbacks. There's more certainty at Arkansas, where Tyler Wilson acquitted himself well last season as Ryan Mallett's backup.

Wilson has a couple of things going for him aside from his passing accuracy. Most quarterbacks flourish under coach Bobby Petrino, and Arkansas has the best set of receivers in the SEC. So it wouldn't be shocking if Wilson went from backup to All-SEC.

And Bray might not be far behind.

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 » 14

ResilientVol writes:

this all mostly makes sense... but lets wait till after tomorrow to see how we stand against other qb's spring performances... Go Vols!!

adamsmith5529#630125 writes:

Murray sucks, He has no AJ Green to throw the ball to. and he looked terrible in their bowl game. Bray will be the best qb in the east this year, and maybe in the whole conference. GO VOLS!!

everydayisorange writes:

in response to ResilientVol:

this all mostly makes sense... but lets wait till after tomorrow to see how we stand against other qb's spring performances... Go Vols!!

I don't think tomorrow's game will show very much about our team as a whole, or the qb's. I do believe the game will show progress with our young receivers. After the season is over, it may prove our receivers to be equall to any in the conference (hopefully)! Anyway the game should be fun to watch!

VolinCalif writes:

Brantley looked pretty good when he was backing up TBow. So I wouldn't count him out just yet. About that 4 pass comp. stat. Correct if I'm wrong but some times completing a pass or two has a little to do with the defence you are facing. I also wonder about the Rec's. I think that the Mrat is stacked on defence but on Off they have OCW. who wants to play for him? The Vols win this one going away.

tree_em_smokey writes:

JA is writing a positive article before he leaves for So Cal. You're not tricking me Adams. I will always remember you for your left field point of view. Hopefully his replacement will be an upgrade.

On topic I'm ready for this thing to kick off! GBO!!!

DooleysOrangePants writes:

you still here?

volsfannsc writes:

I received word from a big time alumni from SC that Garcia is gone. Period. Even Spurrier was quoted as saying "5th time is a charm". His alcohol problems are just too insurmountable at this point for any lasting intervention. Most of the SC fans around here are saying it's time to move on without the drunk.

As far as the QB position- UT is in good shape BUT you need an offensive line to go with that. You have to give the QB time to make and execute his decisions and the line has to set up the running game. I just hope our line is ready to compete this year.

jdcdjc writes:

If our receivers come around as they should and learn thier routes, we should compete with anyone with Bray passing the ball to them, what I am concerned with is the running game as we all were last year.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

Brantley looked pretty good when he was backing up TBow. So I wouldn't count him out just yet. About that 4 pass comp. stat. Correct if I'm wrong but some times completing a pass or two has a little to do with the defence you are facing. I also wonder about the Rec's. I think that the Mrat is stacked on defence but on Off they have OCW. who wants to play for him? The Vols win this one going away.

Charlie Weis may have been a bust as a head coach, but he has a justified reputation as a good OC. Since the entire Gator roster was recruited to play in a spread offense, it might not be a seamless transition to a pro-style offense, but let's not sell Weis short just yet. The Gator defense should be pretty good. And while the Swamp was not quite as intimidating last year as it has been in the past, it will still be a tough place for a still-young-and-thin Vol team to win in.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

ADAMS LEAVE YOUR NO GOOD FOR UT GET ON DOWN THE ROAD TO USC WITH YOUR BUDDY LAME KITTEN,YOUNS AERE A PERFECT MATCH WE DONT NEED YOUR KIND IN KNOXVILLE!!!

slb#1351874 writes:

Is Adams really leaving or is this a bad April fool day joke?

If it is true I can only say "Gods Speed John" I wish I was there to help you pack.

Tnjim writes:

Did anyone else notice Adams said we won at LSU?

Slystone writes:

Does anyone think the Vols will go 1-4 in Oct this fall?

Oct. 1 Buffalo TBA
Oct. 8 Georgia TBA
Oct. 15 LSU TBA
Oct. 22 at Alabama TBA
Oct. 29 South Carolina TBA

VOLunTEAR writes:

in response to Tnjim:

Did anyone else notice Adams said we won at LSU?

Yep. That's what it says. UT beat LSU on a last second drive. Actually, that happened. But then they played the game over. We lost the second time. But at least we went 1-1 and not 0-2 for the day. Now we are honored by the NCAA with "The Derek Dooley Rule" which will help protect coaching staffs that can't manage the clock/personnel at the end of a game/season.

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