Cutcliffe Remembers Helton, Retiring Rockies 1B, As QB
By Dan Harralson
The numbers are not enough to get a quarterback remembered during Tennessee-Florida week: 41-of-75, 484 passing yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions.
But for Colorado Rockies first baseman and former Tennessee quarterback Todd Helton, there's a different standard. The future baseball Hall of Famer announced his retirement this week.
The Vols are in a quarterback battle, much like Helton's time at his alma mater in 1994. Coach Butch Jones said Monday he wants to open things up and run some of the offensive plays that he is accustomed to, like the read option he ran at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. It worked there, as Jones' four conference championships are proof. That puts freshman quarterbacks Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson just as much in the fold as original starter Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman, and the crowded position has a '94 feeling.
Former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe knows the landscape and the decisions Jones faces. Cutcliffe eventually found gold when a guy by the name of Peyton Manning came out of the 1994 quarterback competition. Manning won the race over the injured Jerry Colquitt, the eventual Texas A&M transfer Brandon Stewart and Helton, a future Major League Baseball star.
It seems like a no-brainer now, but much like the current quarterback battle between Worley, Peterman, Dobbs and Ferguson, Cutcliffe's '94 quarterback battle was difficult at the time.
"That's what you call good fortune," Cutcliffe told Football.com. "To surround yourself with great people and it certainly was challenging. You had people all with different strengths, certainly all were talented, but were all different people, leaders, fierce competitors, and it's always a good problem when you're surrounded by Hall of Famers."
Cutcliffe took a minute to reflect on Helton's football career at Tennessee.
"Todd had an incredible vision downfield and I really think he's one of those guys that sees things in slow motion. Probably one of the reasons he could hit the baseball as good as he can. His vision's incredible."
It is fitting that Helton and Manning are ending their careers in Denver. As for Saturday's 43rd edition of Tennessee and Florida, Jones needs to get the most out of the quarterback group against the Gators.
This was a game that defined the SEC champion from 1993-1998 when Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier roamed the sidelines for their alma maters. Now it's Butch Jones versus Will Muschamp, Round One.
It's the back end of a rigorous two-week road schedule that began with the worst Vols loss in 108 years. Jones wants to avoid a repeat outcome in the Swamp.
Tennessee/Florida Series Notes
Florida leads the series, 23-19. Florida holds an eight-game winning streak. Tennessee's longest winning streak is 10 (1916-1953).
Largest Win: Tennessee 40, Florida 0 (1944)
Series Record, Notable Coaches: Urban Meyer, Florida (6-0); Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee (5-12); Steve Spurrier, Florida (8-4); Johnny Majors, Tennessee (1-4); Doug Dickey, Florida (2-2); Bill Battle, Tennessee (2-1); Robert Neyland, Tennessee (6-0).