Over this last offseason, there was a lot of conversation about whether or not the Tennessee Volunteers were still "Wide Receiver U." The Vols have historically been known as Wide Receiver U because of their penchant of putting receivers in the NFL and those receivers putting up big numbers while in college. The last few seasons have seen a drop off in production at receiver, and when Clemson began claiming they were the new Wide Receiver U, the Vols dropped a hype video and a debate broke out among fans of the respective schools.
But as successful as the Vols have been at wide receiver in the past, the future looks even brighter at another position: quarterback.
It all started in 2013 when Butch Jones was able to flip four-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs from Arizona State. Dobbs failed to impress in limited action as a freshman, but he exploded onto the scene in 2014 when he threw for 301 yards and ran for 166 more in his first start of the season against South Carolina. Now Dobbs is being viewed as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and is seen by some analysts as a potential dark-horse Heisman candidate.
But Dobbs isn't the only quarterback on Tennessee's roster with hype surrounding them. The Vols snagged three 4-star quarterbacks in the 2015 recruiting class, and while Jauan Jennings has since converted to wide receiver, both Quinten Dormady and Sheriron Jones have tremendous upside and were both top 300 recruits in the 2015 class. But as good as Tennessee's 2015 quarterbacks are, their lone 2016 commit may be even better.
Jarrett Guarantano is the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in 2016 according to 247Sports, and he is Tennessee's top commitment in their class. Guarantano has elite athleticism and has the potential to be a perfect fit in Butch Jones' style of offense. Guarantano can run as well as Dobbs and already looks like he can pass better than him once in college. During the summer, Guarantano competed in the Elite 11 quarterback competition at Nike's The Opening and drew rave reviews, only increasing the expectations and hype around him.
But, once again, as much attention as Guarantano has garnered for himself and the Vols, there's another quarterback with ties to Tennessee who could end up being the best out of all of these.
Hunter Johnson, the No. 1 overall quarterback in the 2017 class and a five-star recruit, committed to the Vols on Sunday, giving them their fourth true quarterback with at least a four-star rating over the last three recruiting cycles. Johnson is currently the highest-rated commitment in the Butch Jones era at Tennessee (Kahlil McKenzie was rated higher in some services but lower in others, thus giving Johnson the better average), and the quarterback depth chart over the next few seasons projects to be as star-studded as any other top program around the NCAA thanks to his commitment.
Imagine the Vols' 2017 quarterback roster as long as nobody has transferred in the next couple seasons and Joshua Dobbs stays through his senior year. Dormady and Jones will be entering their third year with Tennessee, and Guarantano will likely be getting his first shot at starting after Dobbs' graduation the previous year. Hunter Johnson will be a freshman on the roster, and he might be the most talented of the four. The Vols would have a total of 21 stars among their quarterbacks if all four remain on the roster in 2017.
And as good as Dobbs could be for the Vols in 2015, Guarantano and Johnson look like they could have even better collegiate careers. Even Dormady is already impressing as a freshman more than Dobbs ever did his first season at Tennessee.
Granted, this is all based on speculation and should be taken with a large grain of salt. While it's likely the Vols are about to receive an abundance of wealth at the quarterback position, the quarterbacks they have could also not pan out, succumb to injury, or any number of other unfortunate scenarios could play out. It certainly wouldn't be beyond Tennessee's luck for any of those to happen.
But for now, the Vols look like they could be elite at quarterback for years to come. And if the talent develops like projected, Tennessee could become "Quarterback U" in the coming seasons.