Mike Strange: Justin Worley awaits coaching decision and Tyler Bray's decision

Mike Strange
Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley throws the ball against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley throws the ball against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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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.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 38

bob.bigorange#605842 writes:

Bray isn't ready for the NFL - attitude and negative reactions when things get tough will get him a ticket home when trying to play with the big boys. CP has the athletic ability and Hunter needs to fine tune after the knee injury. but Worley should get an even shake no matter who the new coach is - good luck son.

frblalack writes:

Worley has earned the start!!!

Let's try winning this time!!!

All Vols

flatrock writes:

Justin Worley has all the tools- size, arm and, most importantly, brains. Tyler Bray has maxed out as a college QB. An amazing arm, good feet and size- and I do believe he has matured some. But, he has thrown away the ball too soon- at the slightest hint of pressure- and seldom makes it past his first "read" (his first read is always Hunter, his second read is Hunter and his third read is to throw it away). He doesn't want to get hit and jeopardize his NFL future, IMHO. Worley, on the other hand, reads play side, middle and then back side (thus, the throw to Patterson, who clearly wasn't prepared for a QB who checks all the reads!). I hope Bray matures into a great NFL QB, but I feel better about Worley's chances.

volfaninbuckeyeland writes:

I'm certain no one would want to endure the misery and agony of a 2nd consecutive loss to Ky, but I, for one, would love to see Worley get equal time in this season finale. How much lower could this season get? Yes, I know Tn has NEVER known an 8 loss season, and I don't know if there have ever been back to back losses to the boys in blue, but I would like to see what this young man has to offer if he is indeed destined to be the QB of the future.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

in response to volfaninbuckeyeland:

I'm certain no one would want to endure the misery and agony of a 2nd consecutive loss to Ky, but I, for one, would love to see Worley get equal time in this season finale. How much lower could this season get? Yes, I know Tn has NEVER known an 8 loss season, and I don't know if there have ever been back to back losses to the boys in blue, but I would like to see what this young man has to offer if he is indeed destined to be the QB of the future.

I'd love to see Worley start. We can beat UK with him and with no bowl game a prep for next year is critical. BonzaiVol

DavidB writes:

Worley has 1 more thing to look at. Who is going to coach defense. The reason Worley didnt get much playing time this year is because we could not put a game in the bag early to get him in at the start of the 4th quarter. Bray had crazy numbers because Bray played the entire game because our defense gave up too many points.

Supersayin1 writes:

in response to frblalack:

Worley has earned the start!!!

Let's try winning this time!!!

All Vols

Sorry starting Worley doesn't mean we will start winning!! Without Bray,Hunter,Patterson and Rodgers we would be a 2 win team right now!

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Jimbo Petrino?

CarlChilders writes:

It appeared to me the radar gun was in Bray's head Saturday. It seemed like he was throwing for the gun instead of the team. A 55 MPH 15 yard pass becomes almost as difficult to catch as hitting a baseball.

TigerShark10 writes:

Tyler needs to talk to Heath Shuler. He finished 2nd in the Heisman, passed on his senior year because he thought he was ready for the NFL. How'd that work out? If the O line comes back, a new coach, Bray, Hunter and Patterson will be electrifying!!! All will be top draft picks.

underthehill writes:

Bray has no leadership ability..would much prefer clowning to paying attention to the task at hand even when faced with losing..may have cost his coach his job with his antics ..not a competitor when going gets tough..if he makes it in the NFL he has to grow up ..since it hasn''t happened yet..gives reason to think it ain't gonna...the other strongest arm at UT was a guy named Tony Robinson...hope he goes..

JayTee writes:

The interception was not Worleys fault it was because Cordarelle Patterson ran the wrong route. Can't run routes and two taunting penalties in as many games.

Maybe he will leave with Bray, I hope.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

Jimbo Petrino?

Yeah I caught that too, and Charlie Stoops

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to TigerShark10:

Tyler needs to talk to Heath Shuler. He finished 2nd in the Heisman, passed on his senior year because he thought he was ready for the NFL. How'd that work out? If the O line comes back, a new coach, Bray, Hunter and Patterson will be electrifying!!! All will be top draft picks.

Patterson is not even attending classes and is flunking. He won't be back

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Haven't seen enought of Worley to say much..Throwing an INT right out of the gate ain't good..Worley better be looking over his shoulder at what's coming in! This Ferguson kid has got the 3 step quick release down pat and looks like a college QB in and out of the pocket..He doesn't throw a long ball like Bray and probably a ways off from reading SEC defenses but I've seen the film and it looks very promising

mtthw741 writes:

in response to bob.bigorange#605842:

Bray isn't ready for the NFL - attitude and negative reactions when things get tough will get him a ticket home when trying to play with the big boys. CP has the athletic ability and Hunter needs to fine tune after the knee injury. but Worley should get an even shake no matter who the new coach is - good luck son.

Agree. But if he does go Pro I will personally help him pack his belongings.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Bray? NFL? If the Vandy D had him bedoozled, wait'll he gets a load of what the Big League has to offer.

dcap8424 writes:

in response to shipperman#280095:

Yeah I caught that too, and Charlie Stoops

You see, what you've got here is an amalgamation of popular names thought to be on the coaching radar. Jimbo Fisher + Bobby Petrino = Jimbo Petrino and Charlie Strong + Bob Stoops = Charlie Stoops.

This is meant to be a joke by the writer. Obviously above your pay grade.

CrankE writes:

Tyler Bray is a critical conversation waiting to happen. This needs to be one of the first conversations the new coach has with his players and coaches.
_______

We’ve seen you throw for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. We’ve also seen you throw beer bottles from balconies and drive a jet ski drunk. We’ve seen you slash North Carolina as a freshman and do a stare down of Vanderbilt as a junior-both games losses, I might add. What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to become?

Nobody doubts your talent. If you never work at it again, you can be a good QB on talent alone. But many have to work very hard just to have your talent. Few have the talent and the opportunity to become a great QB. You have that opportunity.

The difference between good and great is not what’s outside, but what’s inside. What everyone is waiting to see is the maturity. The good decision making. The cool head. The class. The ability to lead the team and raise the level of play of everyone around you. These are the characteristics of quarterbacks who have it together and are leading their teams into championship contention. Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Connor Shaw, Collin Klein. These are the characteristics of the starting QB at the University of Tennessee in 2013.

Either you or your successor will make that commitment, live those characteristics, and be the quarterback that I’m looking for.

You’ve played to the limit of your coaching. We’re going to have better coaching. If you make that commitment and stick with it, then I'll be glad to have you. I think this team will perform much better and you’ll look much better leading them to victory than you would throwing for another 400 yards and a 51-48 win.

If you would rather go on to the NFL, then I wish you the best of luck and have no malice or hard feelings. Our team may not be as good without you as with you, but I’m committed to doing this the right way.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to dcap8424:

You see, what you've got here is an amalgamation of popular names thought to be on the coaching radar. Jimbo Fisher + Bobby Petrino = Jimbo Petrino and Charlie Strong + Bob Stoops = Charlie Stoops.

This is meant to be a joke by the writer. Obviously above your pay grade.

This writer rarely makes me laugh. That being the case, why not add Jon Spurrier?

Vol86 writes:

I not going to do bashing like some do. Bray will be an nfl quarterback. However, he could be making a mistake if he leaves early. Patterson will be an nfl player, but needs a year to learn how to play football. Hunter is playing worried about his knee and I believe he has a child. He should maybe just take his shot in the nfl.

Orangeblood13 writes:

the most popular player on a losing team is the backup qb.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to shipperman#280095:

Patterson is not even attending classes and is flunking. He won't be back

hardley believe that

UTVOL2001 writes:

in response to shipperman#280095:

Yeah I caught that too, and Charlie Stoops

They were both jokes intended to blend the names of 4 coaches.

Pistolpete13579 writes:

in response to shipperman#280095:

This writer rarely makes me laugh. That being the case, why not add Jon Spurrier?

Kirbysweeney

tennesseefan2 writes:

Bray needed someone to get his attention. Nobody has made him man up. (IMO)

RickyVols writes:

in response to flatrock:

Justin Worley has all the tools- size, arm and, most importantly, brains. Tyler Bray has maxed out as a college QB. An amazing arm, good feet and size- and I do believe he has matured some. But, he has thrown away the ball too soon- at the slightest hint of pressure- and seldom makes it past his first "read" (his first read is always Hunter, his second read is Hunter and his third read is to throw it away). He doesn't want to get hit and jeopardize his NFL future, IMHO. Worley, on the other hand, reads play side, middle and then back side (thus, the throw to Patterson, who clearly wasn't prepared for a QB who checks all the reads!). I hope Bray matures into a great NFL QB, but I feel better about Worley's chances.

Tyler Bray has had multiple games where he's thrown to 10+ receivers. If you think he doesn't check down, you haven't been watching the games. Bray has had maturity issues no doubt and his SEC won/loss record is terrible, but how good can a QB look when you have the worst head coach and worst DC in college football. Bray will go to the NFL and pull an Arian Foster.

Ayres_Hall writes:

I hope they all stay for the next season.

The new coach will need all the choices he can get. Plus, I wonder how a new staff might use Tyler Bray.

Vol_In_The_Ville writes:

in response to CrankE:

Tyler Bray is a critical conversation waiting to happen. This needs to be one of the first conversations the new coach has with his players and coaches.
_______

We’ve seen you throw for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. We’ve also seen you throw beer bottles from balconies and drive a jet ski drunk. We’ve seen you slash North Carolina as a freshman and do a stare down of Vanderbilt as a junior-both games losses, I might add. What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to become?

Nobody doubts your talent. If you never work at it again, you can be a good QB on talent alone. But many have to work very hard just to have your talent. Few have the talent and the opportunity to become a great QB. You have that opportunity.

The difference between good and great is not what’s outside, but what’s inside. What everyone is waiting to see is the maturity. The good decision making. The cool head. The class. The ability to lead the team and raise the level of play of everyone around you. These are the characteristics of quarterbacks who have it together and are leading their teams into championship contention. Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Connor Shaw, Collin Klein. These are the characteristics of the starting QB at the University of Tennessee in 2013.

Either you or your successor will make that commitment, live those characteristics, and be the quarterback that I’m looking for.

You’ve played to the limit of your coaching. We’re going to have better coaching. If you make that commitment and stick with it, then I'll be glad to have you. I think this team will perform much better and you’ll look much better leading them to victory than you would throwing for another 400 yards and a 51-48 win.

If you would rather go on to the NFL, then I wish you the best of luck and have no malice or hard feelings. Our team may not be as good without you as with you, but I’m committed to doing this the right way.

You should post more solid comments like this instead of spewing negativity at any given chance. I actually enjoyed this post - one of the most well-thought reads I have come across here. Nicely done.

hueypilot writes:

I'd like to see Bray move on. I think his attitude is one that would not help the team going forward. The QB is a de facto team leader. He sets the wrong example. Likewise Patterson. If he's not going to class he'll be gone. Time to sweep clean with a new broom.

VolsUpsetYetAnother writes:

Bray has had more good games then bad. His problem is when pressured. He cannot throw on the run. Luckily he hasn't had to much due to the great O-line. Worley is still unproven and could be another great pocket passer for us. The bigger concern to me is IF Hunter/Patterson leave for the NFL (and Rogers is a senior) who will his (Brays) great arm throw too? That brings me to this; why do TN refuse to recruit mobile QB's that can also throw from the pocket. It may be that Justin King is our guy... Let's face it; no one can argue that it never seems to fail that we will have an offense on a 3rd and 11 (or whatever) coverage downfield does their job (don't laugh) and here comes the mobile QB down the field for the 1st down. If you don't have some 1st round draft picks at the skill positons (QB/WR/RB) it is EXTREMELY difficult to win a championship. Now - look at what this coaching revolving door will do to our recruits over the next two years (if we don't get that stud HC). I personally feel that we are going to have to lean on a QB with some wheels to keep the chains moving. This is not taking into consideration our defensive struggles; but does anyone else feel that a QB that can run at least a 4.7 is invaluable to a college football team in todays game?

volboy81 writes:

Jimbo Petrino & Charlie Stoops? I hope that was supposed to be a joke rather than the person writing it being that stupid!

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

Firing CDD could turn into a total nightmare if we don't get the true HOMERUN hire for our next HC.

We could see our player roster get totally gutted with bray, Patterson, Hunter, James, Sentimore, McCullers, Stone and another 1 or 2 off our O line all go try the NFL if they don't like the new coach and his O and D systems.

We could also see Worley, Peterman, AJ, Maggitt, McNeal, Randolph and several of our best players decide to transfer out to other schools just to get away from Tennessee and our new coach and decide to just start all over somewhere else.

CDD was given his contract and a big buyout clause to try and get people to let him get at least 4 of HIS recruiting classes on campus and he only got 2 and he didn't get the 2 years needed to get the 3-4 Defense learned and working well so people may not be too happy once we see who the next coach will be and how many really good players we might lose off our team.

I really don't care if Bray, Hunter and Patterson leave as ong as we don't lose alot of our really good younger players too.

I'm fine with getting the Worley/Peterman era started and getting our young WR's and TE's going ASAP so we can rebuild with the good youth we have thanks to CDD.

I'll really hate it if we lose several of our D players especially off our D line and LB corp.

VFL...GBO!!!

voodoo101 writes:

in response to TitanandVolfan4life:

Firing CDD could turn into a total nightmare if we don't get the true HOMERUN hire for our next HC.

We could see our player roster get totally gutted with bray, Patterson, Hunter, James, Sentimore, McCullers, Stone and another 1 or 2 off our O line all go try the NFL if they don't like the new coach and his O and D systems.

We could also see Worley, Peterman, AJ, Maggitt, McNeal, Randolph and several of our best players decide to transfer out to other schools just to get away from Tennessee and our new coach and decide to just start all over somewhere else.

CDD was given his contract and a big buyout clause to try and get people to let him get at least 4 of HIS recruiting classes on campus and he only got 2 and he didn't get the 2 years needed to get the 3-4 Defense learned and working well so people may not be too happy once we see who the next coach will be and how many really good players we might lose off our team.

I really don't care if Bray, Hunter and Patterson leave as ong as we don't lose alot of our really good younger players too.

I'm fine with getting the Worley/Peterman era started and getting our young WR's and TE's going ASAP so we can rebuild with the good youth we have thanks to CDD.

I'll really hate it if we lose several of our D players especially off our D line and LB corp.

VFL...GBO!!!

Yep, it's always better having a Plan B when you dump Plan A. Even at that, many "proven" coaches don't work out in new surroundings. Mass defections in the roster and recruits could mean stating all over again with freshmen and sophomores weak in talent and with little upper class leadership - a slow road to success.

PUL4VOLS writes:

It will all be about the new coach and staff. If Bray stays, his attention needs to be gotten quickly. If that means Worley gets more playing time, so be it. If it requires Peterman or the new incoming person, so be it. We have seen enough Non-leadership on so many levels the past few years and now is the time for true leaders to step up. Personally, I do not feel Bray is the one to do that. I also do not believe he has a solid shot in the NFL, especially if he goes next year. The other two, Hunter and Patterson will do what they need to do. It will be interesting to see how things work out when we hear who the new head coach is and what his perspective will be. I do agree that if a real top notch hire does not come now, we are in for more of the unfun we have beheld the last 3 or 4 years.

Tommyrayvols writes:

in response to CrankE:

Tyler Bray is a critical conversation waiting to happen. This needs to be one of the first conversations the new coach has with his players and coaches.
_______

We’ve seen you throw for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. We’ve also seen you throw beer bottles from balconies and drive a jet ski drunk. We’ve seen you slash North Carolina as a freshman and do a stare down of Vanderbilt as a junior-both games losses, I might add. What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to become?

Nobody doubts your talent. If you never work at it again, you can be a good QB on talent alone. But many have to work very hard just to have your talent. Few have the talent and the opportunity to become a great QB. You have that opportunity.

The difference between good and great is not what’s outside, but what’s inside. What everyone is waiting to see is the maturity. The good decision making. The cool head. The class. The ability to lead the team and raise the level of play of everyone around you. These are the characteristics of quarterbacks who have it together and are leading their teams into championship contention. Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Connor Shaw, Collin Klein. These are the characteristics of the starting QB at the University of Tennessee in 2013.

Either you or your successor will make that commitment, live those characteristics, and be the quarterback that I’m looking for.

You’ve played to the limit of your coaching. We’re going to have better coaching. If you make that commitment and stick with it, then I'll be glad to have you. I think this team will perform much better and you’ll look much better leading them to victory than you would throwing for another 400 yards and a 51-48 win.

If you would rather go on to the NFL, then I wish you the best of luck and have no malice or hard feelings. Our team may not be as good without you as with you, but I’m committed to doing this the right way.

You can't state it any better than this.

utfan2121 writes:

Hang in there Justin, I believe in you and I'm behind you all the way.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

No disrespect to Worley, but the biggest recruiting pitch of the new coach will be to try and get Bray, Hunter, and James to come back. I don't think it happens, but that's the first thing that needs to be addressed.

Thomas and Rivera are gone due to graduation and Patterson was one and done from the word go. This offense is likely going to be in rebuild mode next season.

Some of you folks are downright delusional to think Bray doesn't give us the best chance to win. He has experience and talent advantages over anyone else on the roster, warts and all.

And who knows, a head coach with a modicum of ability might be able to clear those warts up.

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