HOOVER, Ala. – Of all the things said at SEC Media Days, one should scare Tennessee fans the most.
“If both players earn their right to play, we’ll play both quarterbacks,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said during his appearance Monday.
If you’re a Vols fan, feel free to board up the windows, crawl into the basement and tremble in fear.
The idea of playing multiple quarterbacks has to give Tennessee’s fan base flashbacks.
There was 2005, when Tennessee couldn’t decide between Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen. There was 2013, when the Vols surprisingly gave a wide-eyed Nathan Peterman his first college start against Florida – in the Swamp. (Yes, that really happened.)
There’s no better way to kill a season than to have a quarterback controversy. The locker room splits, players lose faith in their coaches and chaos ensues. It’s also worth noting that with a rebuilt coaching staff, Tennessee’s players have little trust equity built up with their coaches.
Hopefully for the Vols, Jones is lying. Yes, coaches have been known to do that. Jones had better know who his starting quarterback will likely be for the entire season.
There are essentially two options:
1. Quinten Dormady is the answer
Dormady, a junior, took most of the first-team snaps in spring practice. Is he ready to assume the starting role he’s been preparing for? He has one more year of experience than redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, so he should be more prepared.
Dormady is a better thrower than former starter Josh Dobbs, so it’s up to the Vols’ coaching staff to take advantage of that. But it’s hard to know exactly what to expect out of this renovated coaching staff.
2. Jarrett Guarantano is special
If this is the case, Jones and his staff had better know it and be sure about it. If Dormady struggles in preseason camp and/or Jones believes Guarantano is a once-in-a-decade player, then start the season with Guarantano or quickly replace Dormady with his apparent understudy.
But this scenario has potential for disaster, especially with Jones’ tenure on the line. The worst thing that could happen for the Vols is if they continue to substitute one quarterback with another. That almost never works.
Of course, Jones could be saying all of this in order to subconsciously convince Guarantano not to transfer if he doesn’t play this season. Only Jones would know the answer to that question.
Jones doesn’t say much in media settings, so you have to sift through a huge pile of coach-speak to find much substance.
But his quarterback quote – if true – should give Vols fans the shivers.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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