The only quarterback on the Tennessee Volunteers roster with any sort of college playing experience will receive even more starting Saturday in the season opener against Austin Peay.
Justin Worley, after sitting behind starter Tyler Bray the last two seasons, has finally sealed his fate as an opening day starter for Tennessee. The junior had been deadlocked in a quarterback battle, fighting tirelessly against Nathan Peterman, Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs for opening the curtains in Butch Jones’ first game pacing Neyland’s sidelines.
Worley now must replace over 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns on offense from his successor. He had been Bray’s backup for the last two seasons, appearing in nine games, completing 57 percent of his passes for 758 yards and a touchdown.
The Rock Hill, South Carolina native attended Northwestern High School, where he won two state championships, including one his sophomore season against South Pointe High that featured South Carolina Gamecocks‘ Jadeveon Clowney, current Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeVonte Holloman.
Worley accounted for most of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s 950 yards during his career at Northwestern. During his senior year, Worley won the 2010 Gatorade National Player of the Year, throwing for 5,315 yards and a state-record 64 scores in a farewell season as a Northwestern Trojan. Worley became the first South Carolina player to win the award.
His handle of the offense this fall compared to the younger guys was presumably the deciding factor for Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian‘s decision. Worley and Peterman were listed as co-starters back in July. The Volunteers offensive line has been mentioned from all walks as one of the best in the nation, only giving up a grand total of eight sacks in 2012.
If you ever want to replace 2,200 yards from great receivers last season, you might as well go in the running back direction. Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane are difference-makers and have the shelf life to get increase touches in dealing with one of the nation’s hardest schedules.
After Worley’s 2013 debut, the Volunteers have a damaging schedule, facing potential BCS buster Western Kentucky next weekend. The Vols play five of their next six games against preseason top-10 opponents. To get a backing on this job early on, Worley has to look sharp against an Austin Peay program that has won only seven times since 2010. Peay will be lucky to score a touchdown against Vanderbilt the following week.
Butch Jones, while at Cincinnati, made a switch from quarterback Munchie Legaux to Brandon Kay last November. Jones wants to see consistency all the way through at the quarterback position. Tennessee shouldn’t expect major unraveling like that this season because of a gray area of inexperience.
Needless to say, Worley should maintain the job and have a firm grip on this offense from play one until the team’s last snap at Lexington.