It is Year Five of the Butch Jones Era and the Vols head coach may have found himself in another tough situation when it comes to who should be QB1 for Tennessee.
We all remember the four way battle at quarterback going into the 2013 season.
Worley. Peterman. Ferguson. Dobbs.
Every fan and talking head had an opinion on who should get the starting nod. Eventually, Worley won out.
However, his early performance led to Nathan Peterman getting the start against Florida. In light of last weekend’s game, I’ll skip the details on how that went.
Rumors floated around that Riley Ferguson demanded to travel to Florida despite an injury. Back in 2013, one source said the coaching staff was completely fine with that as the plan all along was to redshirt Josh Dobbs, something that his family was not happy about considering he switched his commitment from Arizona State to Tennessee the night before National Signing Day.
Dobbs comes in against Alabama as a true freshman, showed some flashes, and the rest is history.
Peterman transfers to Pitt where he flourishes and gets drafted by the Buffalo Bills.
Ferguson leaves Tennessee for home, then signs with Memphis and has been impressive in his second season with the Tigers.
The important thing look back on is how Jones handled the entire quarterback situation in 2013 and 2014. Based on his scheme, Worley had no business starting at quarterback at Tennessee. Yes, he looked good in practices. However, when the majority of the designed runs in the playbook feature a read option, a QB that cannot run that fast is not really fooling any defense.
Peterman was a couple steps faster than Worley. However, he got thrown to the wolves against Florida, promptly benched, and his confidence was immediately destroyed.
Meanwhile, Jones caved to injured Ferguson to be on the travel roster all while a healthy Dobbs sat on campus so the staff could try to redshirt him.
Long story short, the thing Jones wanted at the quarterback position, didn’t happen. His mishandling of the quarterback position resulted in Dobbs playing before he had planned.
Imagine if everything had worked out perfectly for Jones. Dobbs would be a redshirt senior right now, not a Pittsburgh Steeler.
But that would also change the quarterback situation for the 2017 Vols, which is where we are right now.
Throughout the pre-season, Jones said both Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano would be competing for the starting job and multiple times he discussed going with a dual quarterback system.
But then the Georgia Tech game happened. Dormady struggled early while Guarantano frowned on the sideline. You can read more about that here.
So here the Vols are going into a Week 4 matchup with UMass. Dormady did not play that well, going 21 for 39 for 259 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions in Gainesville. Granted, one of those picks is on the receiver as hit him square in the hands. Guarantano saw the field for one play, a false start, following a brief Dormady injury during a goal-line drive that has the entire fan base furious.
But where’s the quarterback dilemma this week?
Jones said earlier this week that Guarantano had earned the opportunity the play against UMass. This is a basic quote that he has said since summer camp. So I threw out a poll on Twitter to get an idea around this game and what Jones should do against cupcake opponent.
How much should Jarrett Guarantano play vs. UMass?
— Andrew Darago (@AWDarago) September 21, 2017
And there’s your dilemma.
Sure, it is only 397 votes during a 7 hour poll. That said, 45% want Guarantano to play the whole game and another 45% want him to play a full half.
Let’s breakdown Jones’ options here:
- Start Guarantano. Likely ruin Dormady’s confidence here.
- Dormady plays first 2-3 series, gets a nice lead. Guarantano comes in, has some miscues like he did against Indiana State. Dormady comes back in, now Guarantano is pissed.
- Flat out be honest and tell both players “you are playing this quarter/half and you are playing this quarter/half.” That’s kind of a win-win for Dormady and Guarantano right?
- Don’t play Guarantano until garbage time when the game is essentially over. Pretty good chance Guarantano gets more angry if this happens.
This is where Jones and his staff have put themselves with comments during the off-season and the past few weeks that are not reflective of how they’ve handled their two quarterbacks.
If you didn’t click on the linked column in this one, I’ll recap real quick. In 2016, Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett was the starter and was told Jalen Hurts would have a couple designed plays just for him. Barnett struggled, Hurts came in and never looked backed. Barnett transfers to Arizona State with an NCAA appeal and became eligible immediately.
Not saying that could happen this season on Rocky Top, but Jones previously struggled handling four quarterbacks, and it appears he might be struggling with just two.