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Tennessee Vols National Signing Day Preview: Quarterbacks

The most important position on the field has been a troublesome spot for Tennessee in recent memory. Bringing in three highly ranked players for 2015 is a great start at securing the future of the position in the post Dobbs era.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee went lock, stock, and barrel into quarterback recruitment this season, following the departure of Riley Ferguson and missing on all of the top quarterbacks in the 2014 class.  At the very least, the Vols two warm bodies to come to Knoxville and Tennessee easily surpassed that by bringing in two very talented early enrollees: Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings. Dormady had offers from Alabama, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kentucky while Jennings had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Duke, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and several others.  With two talented quarterbacks committed, most assumed Tennessee was done at the position, but former Florida recruit Sheriron Jones was unfazed by the competition and pulled the trigger on the Vols on January 8th.  Credit must be given to the coaches for bringing in all three players in one offseason, thus increasing the likelihood that one of them will be ready to take the field whenever Joshua Dobbs leaves the Vols.  And as Ohio State just proved on their way to a national title, you can never have enough good QBs on the roster.

Here I'll break down each quarterback and give my thoughts on which player is most likely to help the Vols in 2015.

Sheriron Jones

Recruiting Service Ranking Measurables QB Rank 40 Time
247 4 Star - 0.9039 6'2.5" 191 lbs #7 Dual Threat 4.6
Rivals 4 Star - 5.8 6'3" 190 lbs #10 Dual Threat N/A
Scout 4 Star 6'2" 188 lbs #18 Overall QB 4.71

Jones has been praised by many as the likely successor to Dobbs, however, I question if they are assuming that based on watching his tape, or by the fact he was committed to Florida and we would love to stick it to the Gators by destroying them with a QB they could have had.  Jones certainly has the speed and elusiveness to be very successful in Butch Jones' spread attack, frankly he appears to be the most ideal fit to run the read option of these three and perhaps even better than Dobbs.  The main issue I have with Jones is his poor mechanics and slow release.  The coaches will have to get to work right away fixing these issues before Jones can get on the field.  The biggest obstacle to immediately overcome will be his legs and footwork in the pocket.  Literally every throw I've seen on film, Jones shuffles his legs up and down, up and down and up and down before releasing the ball.  See for yourself.  The shuffling denies him the opportunity to set back and let the ball rip, causing a delayed release.  His poor footwork also denies him the ability to put full force into each throw.  Luckily, this is an easily correctable problem, but it may take Jones some time to adjust to proper footwork.  The coaches will never put him in until he corrects these issues. Clearly Jones has exceptional arm talent and game breaking ability once he escapes the pocket, and he could be the gem of this class... but not next season.

It should be noted that Jones has not yet signed his letter of intent and still has the opportunity to go to another school, if he so chooses.  Some questioned whether he would continue to look around after his main recruiter, Mike Bajakian, left the program.  Jones was quick to squash those rumors and from all accounts will be a Volunteer next season:

Quinten Dormady

Recruiting Service Ranking Measurables QB Rank 40 Time
247 4 Star - 0.9029 6'4" 200 lbs #12 Pro Style N/A
Rivals 4 Star - 5.8 6'4" 210 lbs #13 Pro Style N/A
Scout 4 Star 6'4" 210 lbs #17 Overall QB N/A

Dormady is listed as a "Pro Style" QB but plays with outstanding versatility and athleticism for player pegged as a stand alone passer.  He comes from a spread offense and takes nearly every snap from the shotgun, so he should already possess the basic knowledge of the system he will be stepping into in Knoxville.  In fact, his head coach installed elements of the Vols' playbook into Dormady's high school offense. Playing in a small school division in Texas, Dormady threw for nearly 6,000 yards and 59 touchdowns and rushed for 261 yards and 5 touchdowns in only two varsity seasons (he missed his entire junior season due to a torn labrum).

On film, I was impressed with Dormady's ability to escape the pocket when pressured while continuing to keep his eyes downfield scanning for open targets.  He was also used on roll outs and bootleg passes and showed great accuracy even while on the run.  His mechanics also appear to be the best of the three incoming quarterbacks.  He has great confidence in his arm and at times forces the ball into coverage, but that faith in the ability to make a play can be a good thing. Tennessee senior quarterback Justin Worley was forced into difficult situations early in his career, and subsequently developed a tendency to check down and bail out of a play instead of taking a shot down the field. That won't be a problem for Dormady, as he does not lack for confidence.  Dormady also has great touch and accuracy on his deep ball that travels around 40 yards.  He may not have the strongest of arms, remember he was coming off a tough injury last season, but I assume he will put on weight and get stronger the longer he's in the team's strength and conditioning program.  His game reminds me of Bo Wallace quite a bit.  If you can put aside Wallace's issues with ill-advised turnovers, he was one of the best QBs in the SEC the past two years and holds several Ole Miss records despite only playing three years in Oxford.  They are also both similarly sneaky athletically and can make plays with their legs when called upon.  I would certainly take that type of production from Dormady.

Dormady has shown a willingness to put forth the work off the field as he traveled to Knoxville on his own accord, making the 17-hour trip from Boerne, Texas, to participate in viewing the Vols' bowl practices in order to absorb as much of the offensive schemes, tempo and personnel before actually being allowed to officially join the team.  It's no wonder Dormady is a son of a football coach, he shows a true passion and approach to the game.

Coming in as a mid-term enrollee has also afforded Dormady the opportunity to bury himself in the playbook and hit the weight room, as he needs to add bulk before he can see the field.

Jauan Jennings

Recruiting Service Rankings Measurables QB Rank 40 Time
247 4 Star - 0.9257 6'4" 188 lbs #6 Dual Threat N/A
Rivals 4 Star - 5.8 6'3" 180 lbs #13 Dual Threat N/A
Scout 4 Star 6'2.5" 190 lbs #17 (Safety) N/A

Of the three incoming quarterbacks, I believe Jennings has the best arm talent of the three and it's not really even close.  Jennings displays terrific touch on his throws and has the rare gift of launching the ball 50 yards down field with simply a flick of the wrist.  Similar to Dormady, nearly all of Jennings' snaps came from the shotgun, as he comes from a spread offense very similar to what Tennessee utilizes with jet sweeps and read option runs.  I went back and watched his junior year film and was really blown away in the strides Jennings made in a year's time.  It's very clear his junior year what he was asked to do as he was most likely the best athlete on the team.  The team relied heavily on his athleticism to just out-talent/run around less talented defenders.  His junior tape shows the very definition of an athlete on film.  Jennings' senior season was his first as full-time QB and it's obvious he put in the work to become a better player, as his footwork and mechanics vastly improved.  Jennings was the ultimate dual threat last season as he put up 2155 yards in the air with 22 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, along with 883 yards on the ground and 17 rushing touchdowns.

The Class AAA Mr. Football for the state of Tennessee displayed his desire to get onto the team as soon as possible by essentially doubling up his course load in the fall to ensure enough credits for graduation.  Jennings knew getting to campus early would increase the likelihood of winning the starting job in the fall.  And yes, that wasn't a typo, Jennings has publicly stated he will be going after Dobbs' job.  Whether that's realistic or not, I love that attitude in a QB and a leader.  Jennings is the type of player that if you tell him he can't do something, he's going to try all that much harder to prove you wrong. Belief in yourself and getting others around you to believe is what leadership is all about, that in my mind is what separates Jennings from the other incoming QBs as he will eventually earn the backup role heading into the 2015 season.