Jones Names Worley Tennessee Starting Signal Caller
By Dan Harralson
The Tennessee quarterback race is over on Rocky Top.
Since Butch Jones has arrived at Tennessee, the quarterback situation has been a topic of discussion. From Justin Worley starting the beginning of last season to the Nathan Peterman experiment at Florida and on to Worley regaining the starting role.
Worley was injured in last October's third game at Alabama. Then the redshirt was taken off of freshman Josh Dobbs, who lead the Vols the remainder of the season. Redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson left after the spring, allowing the fall camp quarterback controversy to dwindle down to Dobbs, Peterman and Worley.
As the media sat inside Neyland Stadium on Thursday, Jones addressed the situation of who will be the starting signal caller against Utah State on Aug. 31.
"He's (Worley) earned the right to be the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee," Jones said. "It started in spring football and continued through training camp. This hasn't been putting together one or two practices; it's been an accumulation of reps since the spring. Justin is playing the best football he's played in a long time."
As a junior, Worley guided the Vols to a win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina before going down at Alabama. This time, Worley will have the luxury of having playmakers like Jalen Hurd, Josh Malone, Von Pearson, Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm around him. The bottom line is winning — and winning now.
Jones sees that in Worley.
"We think Justin Worley gives this football team the best opportunity to win right now," Jones said.
Jones said that Worley's reaction to the news was very "Justin Worley-like."
"I just said, 'Thank you for the opportunity,’” Worley said of his meeting with Jones. “He was very complimentary of my play as of late, showing that it was my job to be the leader of the offense, my job to lead the team."
The competition is not over, however. It will continue to push all three quarterbacks as Tennessee shifts from training camp to game preparation.
"He told me to put my head down and keep grinding," Worley said. "Don't lose sight of the competition aspect of it and to continue to be the leader I've been."
Worley has appeared in 17 games for Tennessee in his career, including eight starts last season where he threw for 10 touchdowns and 1,239 yards to go with eight interceptions.