Tennessee took three quarterbacks on its Florida road trip in September. Joshua Dobbs wasn’t one of them.
Two months later, Dobbs will be UT’s starting quarterback in the most important game of coach Butch Jones’ first season.
Fans have learned to expect instability in the transition from one quarterback to the next. But this transition — from former quarterback Tyler Bray to Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman and Dobbs — has exceeded expectations.
The up-and-down nature of the transition has been both injury and performance driven.
And never mind the potential Dobbs has exhibited in his first two starts. The end is nowhere in sight.
Jones prepared you for this in preseason when he pointed out the thin line separating his four quarterback candidates.
If you dismissed that as coach-speak, we’re on the same page.
However, the coach’s preseason assessment has proved to be a candid appraisal of the position.
Worley, the only candidate with previous college experience, opened the season as the No. 1 quarterback. Peterman succeeded him as the starter at Florida, where he was ineffective before he was injured.
The Vols then went back to Worley, until he injured his throwing hand and was sidelined in the midst of a runaway loss to Alabama last month.
Enter the inexperienced Dobbs, a better runner with a smoother pass release than either of his predecessors. He will start next Saturday against Vanderbilt as UT plays for its bowl life.
The Vols, who stand at 4-6 after three consecutive lopsided losses, need to beat both Vanderbilt and Kentucky to become bowl eligible. But even if Dobbs were the quarterback of record in such cherished back-to-back victories, you couldn’t assume the quarterback transition had finally been settled.
Go back to Florida when Ferguson was SEC road certified before Dobbs.
Ferguson later lost ground because of a leg injury. Once healthy, he could rejoin the competition this spring.
And that competition likely could continue right through the first week of the 2014 season opener.
No matter who wins out, the fallout could be considerable.
Perhaps Worley would want to finish his college career at UT next season regardless of his place on the depth chart. But if he wants to be the No. 1 quarterback, there’s overwhelming evidence that he should look elsewhere.
You could say the same for Peterman, a redshirt freshman. Unless being at UT is a greater priority for him than playing time, he will transfer, too.
And wouldn’t the loser of the Dobbs-Ferguson competition also be tempted to move on?
If so, there’s a chance a depth chart deep in quarterbacks could become threadbare by next fall.
Recruiting might not be an option. As well as Tennessee has recruited for 2014, its commitment list is void of quarterbacks.
That’s hardly a shocking development.
You would question the decision making of any high school senior quarterback who signed on with a program that has two promising true freshman quarterbacks, including one with starting experience.
UT’s immediate quarterback storyline isn’t so intriguing. It’s all about Dobbs.
He could be the quarterback who returns Tennessee to postseason football.
Or he could be the quarterback who couldn’t beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky.