Jones says he's opening up Vols' QB competition

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Butch Jones says he's opening up the Volunteers' quarterback competition.

Junior Justin Worley has started each of Tennessee's first three games and is atop the depth chart for Saturday's game at No. 19 Florida, but Jones said Monday that he would start whichever quarterback performs the best in practice. Tennessee's offense struggled last week in a 59-14 loss at No. 2 Oregon that represented the Vols' most lopsided varsity defeat since 1910.

Worley is 35 of 57 for 372 yards with five touchdown passes and one interception this season. Redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman has gone 6 of 12 for 40 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Jones didn't rule out the possibility of starting Riley Ferguson or Joshua Dobbs, two freshmen who haven't played at all.

"Just like any position in our program, it's open," Jones said. "Whatever quarterback has the best week of practice will be the starter for Tennessee when we play Florida. If that means a freshman quarterback, that means a freshman quarterback. We'll add more quarterback run into our package this week. We just need to find ways to generate big explosive plays. If that's Josh Dobbs running the read option or Riley Ferguson, that's what we'll do."

Jones wants his offense to create more "splash plays" that generate big chunks of yardage. Worley is averaging 10.6 yards per completion to rank 81st nationally in that category.

Worley also is the least mobile of Tennessee's four scholarship quarterbacks.

"You have to earn your spot each and every week," Jones said. "We'll see what the freshmen can handle. Nate Peterman continues to progress along. He's an individual, at 6 a.m., he's the first person in the building every single day. He has a great grasp of knowledge. I continue to see him getting better. And I think Justin's getting better, but I just think competition is healthy. It's going to be a week-to-week process of who can manage the offense the best."

No quarterbacks were made available to the media Monday.

"I feel like I played all right," Worley said Saturday after the Oregon game. "I took what the defense was giving us, but we needed some more big plays than we generated. Hopefully in the next weeks to come, we'll be able to generate some more explosive plays."

Worley has avoided mistakes this year after entering the season with five career interceptions and one touchdown pass, but Jones wants the junior to be more aggressive. Jones cited Worley's 4-yard touchdown pass to Jason Croom against Oregon as an example of what he wanted.

"The play he had on the touchdown pass to Jason Croom, I thought he stepped back, he was assertive, he set his feet," Jones said. "He demanded command in the pocket, and he was confident, and he threw the ball in there and he was accurate. We need him to attack more."

ETC.: Jones had no update on the status of defensive tackle Maurice Couch, who was declared ineligible for the Oregon game as the university investigates a Yahoo Sports report that he accepted improper benefits. Couch isn't listed on the depth chart for the Florida game. ... Jones said defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry will probably miss three to six weeks after injuring a knee at Oregon. ... Jones expects wide receivers Alton "Pig" Howard and Johnathon Johnson back this week after both missed the Oregon game with injuries.

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Comments » 3

slb1zellwood#1421797 writes:

You the man coach.
Do what ever you feel is necessary to give the offense some umph. Right now it is pretty vanilla and to be honest "bad". In today's college game you best be a jack of all trades and have the ability to make quick decisions and the physical tools to execute and I don't believe Justin possess that ability and if he does he sure hasn't show it.

Orange_Power_T writes:

Very glad to hear this- as long as it isn't just talk. I was VERY disappointed in Worley's play Saturday. Three bounce passes to receivers and then four that were overthrown. Just not very reassuring.
Maybe the competition will force Worley to step up, but I have a feeling we will see another QB as starter.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Orange_Power_T:

Very glad to hear this- as long as it isn't just talk. I was VERY disappointed in Worley's play Saturday. Three bounce passes to receivers and then four that were overthrown. Just not very reassuring.
Maybe the competition will force Worley to step up, but I have a feeling we will see another QB as starter.

Or we might NOT see a new QB, this week anyway. As has often been stated on here, the QB competition HAS been open ever since CBJ got here. I suppose it is possible that the light might suddenly come on for one of the others. I also suppose Worley could have lost the trust of the coaches and the players, though his numbers are in fact at least "all right". We could all wish he had a quicker release and better accuracy, but he HASN'T been just throwing it up for grabs or laying the ball on the ground. He hasn't been getting sacked a lot. Every part of the offense needs to step up, ESPECIALLY our much-touted O-line. They didn't exactly cave in even the likes of APSU and WKU, much less Oregon, leaving little hope against what should be a REALLY salty Florida defense unless they REALLY pick it up.

It all has to fit together if the offense is to succeed. The O-line has to open holes for the RBs; the RBs need to HIT those holes hard and grind for the extra yard; the running game has to force the defense to load the box so the receivers can get one-on-one; the QB has to make accurate throws to the receivers; the receivers have to run good routes and FIGHT for the ball when it comes their way. If all of those guys get just a LITTLE better at all of those things, the synergy created could start flowing the Vols' way. But some part of the offense has to lead the way--I'm looking at YOU, O-line. Let's see a little more of that NFL potential everybody keeps talking about.

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