One of the last remaining quarterback battles in the SEC is going to creep into game week.
Tennessee's four-man battle that features junior Justin Worley, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman and true freshmen Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson will be decided next week, according to Brendan F. Quinn and Evan Woodbery of GoVolsXtra.com.
“I tell you what, competition is the greatest motivating force,” head coach Butch Jones said. “It’s extremely healthy.”
Healthy, sure. But Jones is cutting it awfully close with his quarterback decision.
When you have two (or, in this case, four) quarterbacks, you don't have any. While next week is the goal for making a decision, it's clear at this point that—if and when one is made—it's hardly going to be set in stone.
“The competition has really elevated the play of all four individuals,” Jones said, according to GoVolsXtra.com.
The 6'4", 222-pound Worley is the only member of the group who has game experience and is the favorite to win the job. In his first two seasons as a reserve, he has thrown one touchdown pass and five interceptions while amassing 738 yards through the air.
Not exactly stellar.
The condensed time frame the eventual winner has before taking on Austin Peay suggests that the player with the most experience will get the first snaps—especially since, according to the Associated Press, Worley has been working with the first team most of the time anyway.
That's good, because the last thing any program needs is four players splitting first-team reps. The eventual winner has to get familiar with the players around him at some point.
Expect multiple quarterbacks to get looks versus Austin Peay and Western Kentucky. The last thing Tennessee needs is to be unsure of itself heading to Oregon in Week 3, and at this point, game action is the best way to determine who's the right man for the job.
Jones is going to settle on a starter next week, and it's probably going to be Worley. After all, somebody has to work with the first team during game week preparation.
But don't be surprised to see this battle drag on into the season.
For Tennessee in a transition year, that might be a good thing.
If all four have elevated their play, a brief audition to start the season is probably the only thing that can truly separate the contenders from pretenders.
It should be an interesting week on Rocky Top.