Tennessee has to figure out who will be the Volunteers’ starting quarterback after Tyler Bray declared for the NFL draft. The clubhouse leader is Justin Worley, but he may not be long for the job once Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson enter the competition when the freshmen arrive this summer.
Dobbs was a recruiting coup for first-year head coach Butch Jones who flipped the Arizona State commit in the days leading up to national signing day. The dual-threat quarterback was a four-star recruit and the fourth ranked dual-threat in his class. He provides the necessary skill-set tailored to succeed in the offense Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian will run.
Worley has the advantage in regard to college experience having appeared in seven games over the last two seasons. The former Gatorade National Player of the Year will likely enter the season as the starter unless Dobbs looks like Everett Golson or Johnny Manziel and dominates in practice to the point where you have to get him on the field.
However, I won’t be shocked to see Dobbs getting in a couple series with the starters to put his dual-threat abilities to use. This will provide a different wrinkle for opposing defenses to worry about and give Jones an advantage as he tries to replace a number of talented offensive playmakers this season. The element of surprise can more than make up for a lack of talent in year one of the rebuilding effort that is well underway in Knoxville.
Jones inherited a relatively bare cupboard following the firing of the over-matched Derek Dooley, but this season will give him the opportunity to find which leftovers from the Dooley regime will fit into his system.
We already know that Dobbs is the handpicked favorite of Jones, and Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman have to be cognizant of the fact that Jones brought in two freshmen in his first class. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the two incumbents.
Bottom line: Dobbs will be the Volunteers’ starting quarterback by week five vs. South Alabama, and it won’t be because Worley was necessarily poor, but rather Dobbs is simply too good to keep on the sidelines.