After burning his redshirt in the second half in Tuscaloosa, the Vols will see what their young freshman quarterback can do: Derek Dooley named Justin Worley the starting quarterback at his weekly press conference today.
The 2010 Gatorade National Player of the Year during his senior season in high school, Worley threw for more than 13,000 yards at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, SC. He also set the South Carolina high school record with 64 touchdowns as a senior.
Dooley was quick to point out that this isn't the same situation that Tyler Bray walked into one year ago, when the Vols transitioned from Matt Simms to Bray in the second half of the South Carolina game. Bray was the number two quarterback from day one, having taken all the second team snaps in practice. Worley was the third team quarterback until Bray's injury against Georgia, and though Dooley praised Worley's work in practice the last two weeks, there is far less certainty from the coaches' perspective about what Worley can do. Worley only handed the ball off against Alabama, and saw no garbage time action earlier this year to protect his redshirt. So we literally have no idea what this kid can do.
What does appear to be certain is that they are unhappy with Simms' performance. It's unfortunate for Simms, who has been benched for the second time in two years for a true freshman. Simms' only work this year was against the two best defenses in the nation. But Dooley clearly feels that Worley gives the Vols the best chance going forward, so here we go.
Tyler Bray is this team's quarterback long term, but with Bray projected to be a very high first round draft pick, we could have only one more year with Tyler; he should be back for any bowl game this season, but anything before that is questionable.
Worley was always the quarterback of the future, and now will get valuable reps as a starter until Bray returns, before sitting for probably only one more year. If Bray goes early Worley would have two years to start in 2013 and 2014 - this is obviously all looking way too far ahead, but that's what we do.
For now it's about the present and not the future with Worley, despite the obvious benefits. The Vols still need three wins to get bowl eligible, and could really use the big win that Derek Dooley hasn't been able to find yet. South Carolina will roll into Knoxville with a Top 15 ranking but without Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore. It should be a very interesting game Saturday night, with a greater degree of curiosity now.
In other personnel moves announced today, Justin Coleman is back in the picture at corner, and Marcus Jackson will replace James Stone at left guard. But the biggest move is Worley, and this feels like the move Tennessee fans wanted to see after Saturday night. So here we go.