Derek Dooley on Justin Worley's performance
Derek Dooley isn't second-guessing the decision in hindsight.
The Tennessee coach also isn't changing his mind moving forward.
Despite an underwhelming debut for Justin Worley in his first start at quarterback, Dooley isn't wasting any time worrying about what might have been different with somebody else taking the snaps. And he's also not looking for a mulligan, officially giving the true freshman another shot to lead UT's stagnant offense at it prepares to take on Middle Tennessee State at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: FSTN, 7 p.m.).
"I don't know what the result would have been (against South Carolina) if I didn't start him," Dooley said during his Monday news conference. "If I knew the result was we would have won the game, then, yeah, it was a terrible decision. If the result was going to be the same, I don't know. If we would have got blown out, then it was a good call.
"I don't know what the answer is, but I can't look back now. I guess only time will answer that question."
Worley is going to get more of it against the Blue Raiders (2-5, 1-3 Sun Belt), even after getting pulled in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Gamecocks having completed just 10 of 26 passes for 105 yards with a pair of costly interceptions.
The Vols (3-5, 0-5 SEC) had other issues offensively as their streak without a touchdown reached 10 quarters, and Dooley stressed they weren't all related to the quarterback — either Worley or backup Matt Simms. And one disappointing performance from the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year hasn't changed any of the thinking that prompted the switch to Worley in the first place.
"Justin, obviously, didn't play great," Dooley said. "Made some good throws, did some things we felt good about and then made some really bad decisions and some throws that he could have thrown better. Hopefully we'll see some
improvement in his play. I think we will.
"I think there was a lot of nerves out there that affected him, especially early on. I don't think anybody really played well around him, and that was the disappointing part. So everybody has to do their part and play better around him and I think we'll be fine."
That starts with more productivity from the running game, which struggled with Marlin Lane nursing an injury and unable to provide a secondary option behind Tauren Poole in the backfield.
It includes better blocking from the offensive line, a unit that only allowed one sack but had issues allowing too much penetration by the Gamecocks, particularly in the red zone.
And Worley also needed a bit more help from his receivers, especially after Da'Rick Rogers let a possible touchdown go right through his hands — a potential game-changing play that might have given his first start a completely different look.
"I felt confident in him," right tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "He looked confident, he went out there and he tried to lead us. I feel like for his first game, he did a pretty good job.
"He wasn't really down on himself. We as an offense tried not to let him get down on himself and keep encouraging him to go out there and play. ... The coaches always stress to just worry about the next play. We can't go back and change anything."
With no guarantee about a change in the outcome had he gone another way at quarterback, Dooley had no interest in dabbling in revisionist history.
And as he turns the page from a dreadful October to November, he hasn't changed his mind, either.
"We've got to do a better job of trying to keep it simple for him," Dooley said. "We might have put too much on him as coaches, and that's always the first thing we do is, 'Where did we screw up?' We probably put too much on him when I look back on it, just because he gives you that confidence.
"He handles it well in practice, but you just forget what it's like when you step out there for the first time."
Either way, the Vols are set to send Worley back out there for the second time now.
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 865-342-6274 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.