The assumed departure of Riley Ferguson certainly dents the optimism of the message board on the front end of this season. But Butch Jones and his freshmen phenoms won't be fully made or broken this season; everybody knows the best chance for better days is still 2015 and beyond, and fans should be patient for at least one more year until then. For Butch's long-term security and the program's long-term health, the quarterback of the future has always been more important than the quarterback of the present. Even before Ferguson's sudden change some fans were talking themselves back into Justin Worley as the best option to take the first snap this fall.
Still, the issue the Vols have now isn't just finding the one big talent at quarterback, it's having enough depth to get through the season, both this year and next year.
We know all about the dangers of carrying three quarterbacks, as we just saw Worley, Nathan Peterman, and Josh Dobbs all start games last season and Worley, Peterman, and Ferguson all miss additional opportunities due to injury. Was 2013 an anomaly for the Vols? Here's how often Tennessee has needed more than one starting quarterback since 2000:
- 2000: Joey Mathews, A.J. Suggs, Casey Clausen
- 2002: Casey Clausen, C.J. Leak, James Banks
- 2004: Brent Schaeffer, Erik Ainge, Rick Clausen
- 2005: Erik Ainge, Rick Clausen
- 2006: Erik Ainge, Jonathan Crompton
- 2008: Jonathan Crompton, Nick Stephens
- 2010: Matt Simms, Tyler Bray
- 2011: Tyler Bray, Matt Simms, Justin Worley
- 2013: Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman, Josh Dobbs