Without a doubt, the top storyline entering spring practice is the quarterback position. Now armed with an offensive mind at head coach, Tennessee has a chance to enter the modern football era on that side of the ball. But who will be under center this fall? That’s the million dollar question — and this staff likely won’t have an answer anytime soon.
The Volunteers have four candidates to take the spot, and the new staff is taking this time to learn each guy in the hunt. Obviously some prep was done before the spring in the film room, but nothing matches getting out on the field and really seeing how they compete.
Offensive coordinator Alex Golesh gave a rundown over the weekend of what he’s seen to open the spring.
“Harrison (Bailey) has some knack to him in terms of he’s played, he finished off the year playing,” Golesh told reporters on Saturday. “Still young, still just a sophomore and you can see that at times. There’s a confidence there. I think the guys really rally around him. He’s trying to be a really good leader. Coach Heupel’s done a really good job of pushing really all three of those guys to be really good leaders.”
Depending on who you talk to, Bailey has been the favorite to win the job all along. The former five-star prospect got his feet wet at the end of 2020, but enters an entirely new system now. Joining him in the battle is former Virginia Tech starter Hendon Hooker, who transferred to Tennessee over the winter. Hooker brings more athletic ability to the table, offering a totally different style than Bailey. Brian Maurer is also in the mix, and this staff knows plenty about him from his high school days in Florida.
“Hendon, you could tell has played a bunch, really athletic, really good with decision-making,” Golesh said. “Maurer is a really, really good athlete and has a really good arm. For him it’s just continuing to grow within the system and continue to learn and grow. I keep saying ‘learn and grow,’ I think those guys continuing to take steps, I think obviously way too early.”
Four-star freshman Kaidon Salter is also in the picture, but he’s been unable to practice due to a suspension. That’s bad news for his status in the battle, and a timeline for his return has not yet been announced.
For now you’ve got three real contenders for the job, and they’ve got a few more weeks to make lasting impressions before we break for the summer.
“Really unique skill sets,” Golesh continued. “You’re trying to find the best guy that can operate within the system and be super-efficient in what you do. I think all three of those guys have the ability to do that, so I think it’ll just be interesting to see over these next 13 days what it actually looks like, but I’ve been really, really happy with where they are.”
The Orange and White game is set for April 24th.