Butch Jones says Vols' QB race is wide open

Freshmen Riley Ferguson, Josh Dobbs could be options

Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley (14) is sacked by Oregon defensive tackle Taylor Hart (66) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. Oregon won the game 59-14. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley (14) is sacked by Oregon defensive tackle Taylor Hart (66) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. Oregon won the game 59-14. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

After another shaky performance by Justin Worley, Tennessee coach Butch Jones has thrown open the quarterback race to everyone -- including true freshmen Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs.

“The position is open,” Jones said. “Whoever has the best week of practice will play.”

Worley has completed 35 of 57 passes for 372 yards. He’s thrown five touchdowns and only one interception, but has struggled to find receivers downfield.

Jones emphasized that all four quarterbacks will get reps in practice this week as the Vols (2-1) open the SEC season at Florida (1-1) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville (TV: CBS, 3:30 p.m.)

"We're going to open it up,” he said.

Ferguson and Dobbs have yet to play a college snap. Jones said redshirt freshman backup Nathan Peterman is also in the mix. Jones said Peterman always comes in early to watch film and is incredibly dedicated.

He also has the ability to run, something Worley hasn’t been able to do with success.

Jones said he doesn’t need a pure dual-threat quarterback, but he does need a quarterback who can take four or five yards when the opportunity is there.

"We're just looking for our quarterbacks to be efficient in the run game,” he said.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments » 23

atnvol#283282 writes:

Looked to me after Saturdays debacle that you could say that about most any position for TN.

volbald writes:

What does Coach Jones mean when he says that the QB who has the best week in practice will start. I'm assuming that Worley, who says he played "all right" last Sat., has always had the best week in practice because he's the one who's been starting. And we can see where that has gotten us.

TommyJack writes:

Butch has always liked QB's that can run. Let's give the skinny white boy with the tats a chance.

goobervol writes:

I personally do not feel that Justin Worley needs any reps this week to show what he can do. He has had 3 games on the big stage to highlight his abilities. Let's see: 124 yards per game and 1.67 touchdowns per game. Please allow the other 3 qbs. to compete this week. It takes a real coach to pull out a player after 3 games. Thank you for not sacrificing this year for one player.

bUTch__please writes:

"We're just looking for our quarterback to be efficient in the run game"

Translation - " Just who the h#!! do you expect him to throw to anyway? Our best wide-out was a quarterback in high school who wouldn't know how to run a route thru McDonalds. Our best slot receiver is a Freshman walk-on. From a Catholic school no less! Geeze people, Wobbles is completing 61% of his passes and has a 141 QB rating to a receiving corps that hasn't even got laid yet. Crimmeny."

RoadTrip writes:

in response to goobervol:

I personally do not feel that Justin Worley needs any reps this week to show what he can do. He has had 3 games on the big stage to highlight his abilities. Let's see: 124 yards per game and 1.67 touchdowns per game. Please allow the other 3 qbs. to compete this week. It takes a real coach to pull out a player after 3 games. Thank you for not sacrificing this year for one player.

I agree. He had his opportunity to show what he could do with Dools and now with Butch. Time to move on. This is the season to find the QB of the future.

volnsc writes:

Here's my take. Vols have an average QB with very young receivers that have a very difficult time separating. Worley has had game management preached into him so much he is afraid of making a mistake, ie, interception or other turnover. Defenses can crowd the line and dare a conservative, timid, average QB to beat them with his arm. May be time to tell Worley he needs to gamble a bit, take a chance or two here and there, become more confident that he can throw it in there. Work on the receivers to separate. The line has to dominate on runs so the defense doesn't pin their ears back comeing after Worley. Add a few more creative plays on offense. Its not all Worley's fault. This is a team that is in transition and will take time. I still think they have a shot in Gainesville, but will have to play with some reckless abandon, as they used to say.

holen1 writes:

in response to volnsc:

Here's my take. Vols have an average QB with very young receivers that have a very difficult time separating. Worley has had game management preached into him so much he is afraid of making a mistake, ie, interception or other turnover. Defenses can crowd the line and dare a conservative, timid, average QB to beat them with his arm. May be time to tell Worley he needs to gamble a bit, take a chance or two here and there, become more confident that he can throw it in there. Work on the receivers to separate. The line has to dominate on runs so the defense doesn't pin their ears back comeing after Worley. Add a few more creative plays on offense. Its not all Worley's fault. This is a team that is in transition and will take time. I still think they have a shot in Gainesville, but will have to play with some reckless abandon, as they used to say.

Why do you think they have a shot in Gainesville ? We have seena lot of top 5-10 Tn teams go to Fla. & fall flat on their faces many times in the past. I do not expect this week to be much different than last week. They are simply not ready. I am not blaming Coach Jones, as he says "it is what it is". He knows we does not have the talent right know to compete against top 25 teams he just can't come out & say it. We all as fans just need to realize this. Win all the games we are supposed to win this year and get 1 or 2 that is considered a toss up late in the year. Get us in a small bowl game at 6-6 and start our way back up the ladder. It called reality people !

ewoodbery (staff) writes:

in response to volbald:

What does Coach Jones mean when he says that the QB who has the best week in practice will start. I'm assuming that Worley, who says he played "all right" last Sat., has always had the best week in practice because he's the one who's been starting. And we can see where that has gotten us.

There was a follow-up question in which Butch was asked, basically, "Are you treating this like you would any other week?" And he said, "No, this will be different."

For example, Josh Dobbs has been working with the scout team at times. If he's truly in the mix to play, I expect you'll see him in the main group. I also have to imagine that Ferguson would get some work with at least the second team.

The problem is this will understandably reduce reps for Worley and/or Peterman.

That's why I think Butch already has some idea what he's going to do. Four choices:

* Turn the reins over completely to one of the freshmen.
* Give Peterman a chance to start.
* Install some sort of package for one of the freshmen.
* Stick with Worley for one more game and introduce this issue just to give Florida something else to think about.

-- Evan

sfox writes:

I agree it is tough for Justin to compete with such inexperienced receivers. It is not his fault he is not a dual threat. It is not his fault we don't have the depth to compete. All factors considered, however, a running QB would offer some relief for both the receivers and the running backs. We need to use all options available with this team. If other teams are able to stock up against the run, we don't have a chance. I say Dobbs or Ferguson give us the best chance of winning those November games that are winable.

OrangePride writes:

Anyone who thinks a change of QB would have changed anything at Oregon didn't watch the same game I did. Throwing a freshman in there to be chewed up would make no sense. I was glad to see Peterman, but even he had handcuffs on for most of the day. IF, in practice he steps up his accuracy (and I agree, he looks more accurate at times) and runs the O better, then he will be the man. If not, then Worley gets another start. FLORIDA is NOT the game to start a new freshman. And just BTW, we very much underestimated Driscol last year and he killed us. So let's not do that again. GO VOLS!!

FWBVol writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

"We're just looking for our quarterback to be efficient in the run game"

Translation - " Just who the h#!! do you expect him to throw to anyway? Our best wide-out was a quarterback in high school who wouldn't know how to run a route thru McDonalds. Our best slot receiver is a Freshman walk-on. From a Catholic school no less! Geeze people, Wobbles is completing 61% of his passes and has a 141 QB rating to a receiving corps that hasn't even got laid yet. Crimmeny."

I don't know what freshman walk on from a Catholic school you are talking about as a slot receiver. If you mean Josh Smith, he's a scholarship receiver who set all kinds of state records playing at Christian Academy of Knoxville, which, FYI, is not a Catholic school. And besides, what does a kid playing at a Catholic, Christian, non-religious private or public school have to do with Worley not being able to complete a pass downfield?

underthehill writes:

Looks to me like..a lot of over reaction by fans is causing same by the coaching staff..not what I expected..the real disappointment for me in the Org game would be the lack of any success by the O line..they had to know going in that they were the only hope for UT to stay in the game..they appear fat and play slow on run plays..one move and they were done..so was UT hopes for a run game..

bUTch__please writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I don't know what freshman walk on from a Catholic school you are talking about as a slot receiver. If you mean Josh Smith, he's a scholarship receiver who set all kinds of state records playing at Christian Academy of Knoxville, which, FYI, is not a Catholic school. And besides, what does a kid playing at a Catholic, Christian, non-religious private or public school have to do with Worley not being able to complete a pass downfield?

Yes, the reference was to Josh. His lack of top end speed and failure to get separation from his coverage match ups made his lack of route execution even more difficult for Wobbles to get him the ball. His Freshman whiteness was on full display. North will be one of the best to come through the T. But same deal, a true Freshman compounded by the fact that he was primarily a wildcat QB in high school. Not a receiver.

I've never been Wobbles biggest fan but it's amazing the amount of blame he's taking when he's got no help. Has he thrown some stupid passes? Oh h*** yes. Has he inspired Johnny Football results with his charisma? Oh h*** no. But he has a 141 qb rating and is completing 60%. Workman like at best.

Sticking a true Freshman behind center does not make the wide outs or slots any better. Any little rhythm that was has to start again. Doesn't help Neal run with attitude. Doesn't help Freshmen and walk ons play any better in the secondary. Doesn't help McCullers play up to his size.

Our team got napalmed by the next National BCS Champion. Not the time to freak out.

Tao_of_Tennessee writes:

On a positive note...the new uniforms are awesome! I like that they got away from the black trim on the away jerseys. I had no trouble in making out the numbers. It looks like the Reggie White days which ushered in better days. Here's to better days ahead. GBO!

vut5686#1405392 writes:

Some good, objective views. Have not seen the freshmen do anything, so have nothing to judge by. I did think Peterman looked a little better passing; not results, but his attempts just looked better. We might not like the results, but give coach creds for at least looking for any edge to make us better.

volnsc writes:

in response to holen1:

Why do you think they have a shot in Gainesville ? We have seena lot of top 5-10 Tn teams go to Fla. & fall flat on their faces many times in the past. I do not expect this week to be much different than last week. They are simply not ready. I am not blaming Coach Jones, as he says "it is what it is". He knows we does not have the talent right know to compete against top 25 teams he just can't come out & say it. We all as fans just need to realize this. Win all the games we are supposed to win this year and get 1 or 2 that is considered a toss up late in the year. Get us in a small bowl game at 6-6 and start our way back up the ladder. It called reality people !

Because at some point something good is gonna happen for this team. They don't quit. Jones won't allow that. They will beat one of the ranked teams on the schedule this year. This is their best chance, IMHO. Of course, Vandy may be ranked by then.

FWBVol writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

Yes, the reference was to Josh. His lack of top end speed and failure to get separation from his coverage match ups made his lack of route execution even more difficult for Wobbles to get him the ball. His Freshman whiteness was on full display. North will be one of the best to come through the T. But same deal, a true Freshman compounded by the fact that he was primarily a wildcat QB in high school. Not a receiver.

I've never been Wobbles biggest fan but it's amazing the amount of blame he's taking when he's got no help. Has he thrown some stupid passes? Oh h*** yes. Has he inspired Johnny Football results with his charisma? Oh h*** no. But he has a 141 qb rating and is completing 60%. Workman like at best.

Sticking a true Freshman behind center does not make the wide outs or slots any better. Any little rhythm that was has to start again. Doesn't help Neal run with attitude. Doesn't help Freshmen and walk ons play any better in the secondary. Doesn't help McCullers play up to his size.

Our team got napalmed by the next National BCS Champion. Not the time to freak out.

I've read nothing but good things about Smith's route running. In fact it seems everything I've read has said he is a very precise route runner. I don't think anybody will mistake him for having Willie Gault speed, but he has adequate speed to be a SEC receiver.

A bunch of white guys with average speed such as Steve Largent, Brandon Stokely and Wes Welker have done well in the NFL with quarterbacks that can get them the football.

Worely has a long, slow delivery that doesn't allow him to get the ball away quickly. Sometimes I feel as if I'm watch Juan Marichal pitching for the Giants as far as Worley reaches back before throwing the ball.

A good quarterback has to have a short quick release, much like a baseball catcher. The ability to see the open man and get rid of the ball quickly makes all the difference. It does no good to make the proper read on where to throw the ball if you are late getting it there.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to OrangePride:

Anyone who thinks a change of QB would have changed anything at Oregon didn't watch the same game I did. Throwing a freshman in there to be chewed up would make no sense. I was glad to see Peterman, but even he had handcuffs on for most of the day. IF, in practice he steps up his accuracy (and I agree, he looks more accurate at times) and runs the O better, then he will be the man. If not, then Worley gets another start. FLORIDA is NOT the game to start a new freshman. And just BTW, we very much underestimated Driscol last year and he killed us. So let's not do that again. GO VOLS!!

Good post; agree completely. I'm not sure the Florida game is THAT much more winnable than the Oregon game, though the margin of victory should be much less if only because Florida's offense isn't as explosive as Oregon's to say the least. Under almost any circumstances, the Swamp is NO place to break in a new QB who hasn't even had regular repetitions with the 1st-team offense. If a change is necessary, and I think it might be, the two-week break before the S-Bama game is the time--two weeks steady work followed by what should be a tune-up game. After that, we will just have to go with what we've got, barring a total meltdown. Even then, our judgment as to what constitutes a "total meltdown" probably shouldn't be what it might be if things were different.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to underthehill:

Looks to me like..a lot of over reaction by fans is causing same by the coaching staff..not what I expected..the real disappointment for me in the Org game would be the lack of any success by the O line..they had to know going in that they were the only hope for UT to stay in the game..they appear fat and play slow on run plays..one move and they were done..so was UT hopes for a run game..

I agree that the magnitude of the Oregon debacle might have led to some over-reaction by the fans, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't a problem, or several of them. What they can do to actually FIX the problem(s) with the personnel on hand is another matter entirely. Unless one of the other QBs shows something in practice this week that he apparently hasn't shown so far, the Vols should just go with what they've got down to Florida, see how they do, and THEN use the extra time with the bye-week to see what they have going forward.

I certainly agree that the O-line needs to have a real "come to Jesus" moment or five this week. Right now, these guys may be jeopardizing what everybody thinks right now about them being such hot NFL prospects. It may be time for them to stop reading their press clippings and ACT like one of the top O-lines in the country. No matter what kind of team you have and how relatively anonymous O-linemen are to the average fan, the NFL player personnel people know what they are looking for, and one thing high on their list is a DEMONSTRATED desire and ability to DOMINATE.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I've read nothing but good things about Smith's route running. In fact it seems everything I've read has said he is a very precise route runner. I don't think anybody will mistake him for having Willie Gault speed, but he has adequate speed to be a SEC receiver.

A bunch of white guys with average speed such as Steve Largent, Brandon Stokely and Wes Welker have done well in the NFL with quarterbacks that can get them the football.

Worely has a long, slow delivery that doesn't allow him to get the ball away quickly. Sometimes I feel as if I'm watch Juan Marichal pitching for the Giants as far as Worley reaches back before throwing the ball.

A good quarterback has to have a short quick release, much like a baseball catcher. The ability to see the open man and get rid of the ball quickly makes all the difference. It does no good to make the proper read on where to throw the ball if you are late getting it there.

Great post! Josh piled up all those receiving records with a QB who was not renowned for his cannon arm, i.e., our erstwhile walk-on, Charlie High. To me, that means he knew where he had to be to get the ball and was pretty good at getting there, no matter how he did it.

Of course, you could say that the competition was not the best in the world, but I would guess that at least some of the defenses he was working against had some pretty quick guys. For example, CAK played Alcoa nearly every season with success, and everybody always raves about how much team speed they have year in and year out. A guy who has ALWAYS had to rely on smarts to get open can probably transfer those skills to a higher level better than a guy who always, in HS, could count on just outrunning anybody he faced.

johndavid writes:

Route running is important, but Vikings didn't draft Patterson for his precise route running.
Peyton's big tight end wasn't drafted for his precise route running. You need both!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to johndavid:

Route running is important, but Vikings didn't draft Patterson for his precise route running.
Peyton's big tight end wasn't drafted for his precise route running. You need both!

I would certainly agree that being big, fast, skilled, experienced, and coachable are better than the opposite of all those attributes. However, you may have noticed that there is a distinct lack of players at any position that have all of those qualities, so they just have to do the best they can with what they have until better recruiting can make up for that lack. Given all that, it is good that Josh Smith, among others, has at least SOME of those desirable qualities, and good route-running and coachability are among them.

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