Vols practice on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013
As you might have heard, Tennessee will break in a new quarterback this season.
As you also might have heard, UT’s new quarterback probably won’t be mistaken for Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel or Georgia’s Aaron Murray.
But he might be good enough to win the tossup games on Tennessee’s schedule.
And those are the games that will determine whether the Vols can end their streak of three consecutive losing seasons.
The top half of UT’s SEC schedule consists of four top-25 teams — Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina — all of whom have exceptional players at quarterback. In fact, South Carolina has two, Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson.
The situation is altogether different on the lighter side of Tennessee’s conference schedule. Missouri, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Kentucky have more in common with the Vols.
And like the Vols, who are seeking a replacement for two-year starter Tyler Bray, none of them is certain about their quarterback.
Justin Worley, who has three career starts, and Nathan Peterman are the leading candidates to succeed Bray.
Here’s how the bottom half of UT’s conference schedule shapes up at quarterback:
Auburn: New coach Gus Malzahn has a great track record with quarterbacks. And since that track record includes Heisman Trophy-winning Cam Newton, Auburn fans are probably pulling for Nick Marshall to win the job.
Like Newton, Marshall is an athletic junior college transfer who accumulated gaudy stats running and passing.
Of the returning candidates, Jonathan Wallace rates ahead of Kiehl Frazier based on spring practice. There’s also heralded freshman Jeremy Johnson.
Missouri: The Tigers didn’t have any questions at quarterback two years ago when James Franklin amassed almost 4,000 yards. But he struggled to overcome injuries last season and is no lock to start, although he ended spring practice as the likely starter and already has been selected as a team captain.
Corbin Berkstresser, who has playing experience, and redshirt freshman Maty Mauk also are in the running for the job.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores will be counting on another transfer to keep their offense rolling.
Jordan Rodgers, a junior college transfer, went 11-8 as a starter. He will be replaced by Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started two seasons at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt.
Like Rodgers, Carta-Samuels’ versatility as a runner and passer could make him a nice fit for coach James Franklin’s offense.
Kentucky: Few programs were more vague about their quarterback situation position than the Wildcats were this spring under new coach Mark Stoops and new offensive coordinator Neal Browning.
Despite the uncertainty, there is potential.
Maxwell Smith completed 68.7 percent of his passes and averaged 323 yards passing through three games before his season ended with an ankle injury.
Jalen Whitlow, who started the last seven games, might be a better option because of his running ability.
Of course when it comes to beating UT, Kentucky might not be so concerned about who’s at quarterback.
The Wildcats topped Tennessee in Lexington two years ago with a converted wide receiver subbing for two injured quarterbacks.