Vols talk about Derek Dooley losing his job
Who's it gonna be?
Whether it's Jon Gruden, Jimbo Petrino or Charlie Stoops, I would argue few if any returning players have a bigger stake in Tennessee's next football coach than Justin Worley does.
Worley's college career will hit the halfway mark Saturday against Kentucky and the immediate future is one big question mark.
Actually, two big question marks. More on that in a moment.
It's one thing for a tailback or a safety to wonder how he'll fit in a new coach's scheme. It's another for a quarterback.
College football is flush with offensive systems. A quarterback recruit coming out of high school would eliminate some schools based on the scheme they run. He would choose the school and system that best fit his skill set.
Worley is stuck at UT — unless he wants to transfer and he doesn't. So Worley, a prolific high-school passer at Rock Hill, S.C., but no threat to Johnny Manziel as a runner, will observe this coach search with great interest.
He's spent two years in reserve. That's an eternity to an athlete on a four-year clock.
"No matter who they bring in,'' Worley said Tuesday, "I hope I can fit their system and be able to do what they ask me to do.''
The second question mark is Tyler Bray, who might forego his senior year.
If Bray returns, he would presumably be the starter for the new coach. But there is a good chance Bray thinks he's ready for the NFL.
"That's his decision,'' Worley said. "I'm going to support him either way. Whatever he decides, I'm going to be here.''
If Bray leaves, Worley isn't guaranteed anything. Freshman Nathan Peterman has demonstrated good potential.
But Worley has a leg up. He started three games last year when Bray was injured and senior Matt Simms was ineffective.
Predictably for a true freshman, he looked fine in a victory against Middle Tennessee State and struggled against South Carolina and Arkansas.
Opportunities have been rare this fall. Bray has, for the most part, played at a high level in a series of close losses.
Finally, Saturday night at Vanderbilt, Worley got a tap on the shoulder from wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw in the second quarter. Bray was in a funk. Get ready.
Worley got a look in both halves. He finished 8-of-11 passing for 51 yards, but did throw a costly interception.
"I thought he handled himself with poise,'' said senior receiver Zach Rogers, "and I told him that personally.''
All things considered, Worley is encouraged with his development from the end of his freshman season to now. He's worked on his foot speed and throwing motion to quicken his release.
"It's hard to improve,'' he said. "Tim Tebow has been working on it for four or five years. I'm not where I want to be yet.''
Then there's the maturity component. Worley is no longer the shy freshman.
"He's helping out every way he can,'' said Rogers. "He's been a great leader even though he's been a backup.''
"I have all the confidence in the world he'll be ready to carry this team.''
Will Tennessee's new coach share that confidence? Or will it be a moot point if Bray is back?
Worley will have to wait and find out.