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Torrance Gibson or Bust: Vols' Options Shrinking at Quarterback

Pro-style quarterback Zach Gentry, long favored to commit to Tennessee, instead committed to the Texas Longhorns, leaving the Vols with fewer options behind five-star prospect Torrance Gibson.

Not Tee Martin, but he still rushed for a touchdown.
Not Tee Martin, but he still rushed for a touchdown.
Andy Lyons

Five-star dual threat quarterback Torrance Gibson has been very public with his interest in the Vols of late, placing Tennessee first on his list of schools and giving high praise to the Vols in interviews with Rivals and Jayson Swain.

If Gibson follows through with his apparent interest and commits to the Vols, Tennessee will be in good shape at quarterback in the 2015 class, with in-state athlete Jauan Jennings also promised a shot at the position. But what if Gibson leaves the Vols at the altar for the allure of following Braxton Miller at Ohio State, as Buckeye fans are already predicting (Land Grant Holy Land)?

The 2015 Roster Situation

Name Stars Recruiting class Style
Riley Ferguson 3 2012 Pro
Joshua Dobbs 4 2012 Pro
Nathan Peterman 3 2011 Pro
Jauan Jennings 4 2015 Ath

Senior Justin Worley is the only certain loss from the 2015 roster, but it's likely that at least one other quarterback (probably the third and/or fourth place finisher in this year's derby) decides to transfer in search of playing time. If the scenario were to play out in the same order as the depth chart exiting spring practice, expect Joshua Dobbs (who had the most offers and was the highest ranked of the three entering Tennessee) to transfer, with Nathan Peterman possibly transferring to a lower division school as well. The current coaching staff has efficiently (some would say ruthlessly) encouraged little-used players to transfer, with the re-made running back depth chart a prime example: both Tom Smith and Alden Hill have left the team this spring, freeing up space for incoming players like Derrell Scott and Treyvon Paulk. In any case, the Vols are in the market for at least two quarterbacks just to fill out the 2015 roster, with currently committed athlete Jauan Jennings promised a shot at the position, but no lock to stay there.

Elite Prospects Off the Board

The Vols appeared to have a solid back-up in four-star pro-style quarterback Zach Gentry from New Mexico, with most analysts picking the Vols as his destination (247 Sports), but Gentry committed to Texas on Monday morning. With Gentry off the board and Brandon Wimbush committing to Penn State last Tuesday, ten of the sixteen quarterbacks with Tennessee offers this cycle have committed to other schools, leaving an ever smaller pod of elite prospects to be circled by major conference sharks. Unlike other top prospects, many top quarterbacks commit relatively early in the process; eight Tennessee quarterback targets have committed in the last three months during the spring camps or Junior Days.

Name Style Stars Commit Date School
De'Andre Johnson Dual 3 7/20/2012 FSU
Ricky Town Pro 5 1/25/2014 USC
Jarrett Stidham Dual 4 3/7/2014 Texas Tech
Josh Rosen Pro 5 3/20/2014 UCLA
Kevin Dillman Pro 3 4/5/2014 Nebraska
Drew Lock Pro 4 4/9/2014 Missouri
Brady White Pro 4 5/2/2014 ASU
Brandon Wimbush Dual 4 5/6/2014 Penn State
Lorenzo Nunez Dual 4 5/8/2014 South Carolina
Zach Gentry Pro 4 5/12/2014 Texas

Although Tennessee continues to evaluate and offer quarterbacks, the pace of offers is likely to dwindle or stop entirely as the staff finishes the nationwide prospect search. Quarterbacks receive early scrutiny from scouts, and while a handful of senior prospects emerge, the majority of elite players emerge earlier in the process.

Remaining Targets

Name Style Stars Interest in UT Other Suitors
Torrance Gibson Dual 5 High OSU, Auburn, LSU
Travis Waller Dual 4 High Oregon, OSU, Ole Miss
Dwayne Lawson
Pro 4 Medium Florida, OSU, UCF
Deondre Francois Dual 4 Medium Florida, FSU, OSU, Miami
Sam Darnold Dual 3 Low Utah
Matt Williams Pro 2 High Duke, Kentucky

The Vols still have six outstanding offers, but only four are reasonable options: three-star California prospect Sam Darnold is all but committed to Utah, and two-star in-state prospect Matt Williams is unlikely to pan out as a major conference quarterback. This leaves Tennessee with a board comprised of Gibson, the top ranked dual threat quarterback nationally, and three other highly ranked prospects: Travis Waller, Dwayne Lawson, and Deondre Francois. The Vols are probably in the best shape with Californian Travis Waller, despite waiting until April 9th to offer him; Tennessee coaches have been in hot pursuit of the dual threat since they evaluated him, although they face competition from west coast teams like Oregon and national brands like Ohio State (a continuing theme). Dwayne Lawson, from Tampa, Florida, seems to like the Vols, but having attended both Florida and Florida State football camps, the Vols are likely to be left on the outside looking in. Last, but certainly not least, Deondre Francois, the quarterback at powerhouse IMG Academy in Orlando, Florida, has Tennessee in his top group of teams along with Oregon, Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, and Miami. Given that Florida took two quarterbacks in the 2014 class, Butch Jones might already be employing the negative recruiting of which he is (allegedly) a master.

What Does It All Mean?

The Vols are likely to take at least two quarterbacks in this class because of roster management needs down the line. With four-star in-state athlete Jauan Jennings already committed and promised a shot at the position, Tennessee would like to take another elite quarterback out of the foursome of Gibson, Waller, Lawson and Francois. Is it wise to go so strongly after a recruit like Gibson who might leave the Vols high-and-dry? Well, the Vols are in the running for several elite prospects in the 2016 quarterback class of 2016, so the Vols won't be completely out of luck even if they can't manage to sign another top tier prospect. Moreover, Butch Jones seems to understand that fearlessness on the field must be matched by fearlessness in recruiting: it might not be necessary to have an elite quarterback to win, but it sure does help.