Tennessee Team News

As Tennessee QB struggles continue, former Vol Riley Ferguson thrives at Memphis

Riley Ferguson
COURTESY OF MEMPHIS ATHLETICS

As Tennessee frets about choosing its quarterback for this weekend, a former Vols quarterback is lighting up scoreboards across the state.

Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson, who transferred from UT to a junior college and then to Memphis, was named American Athletic Conference offensive player of the week after throwing for seven touchdowns in last week’s 70-31 win against Connecticut.

Tennessee’s quarterbacks have thrown seven touchdowns all season.

Ouch.

The contrast is painful for Vols fans who have watched Quinten Dormady (76-of-137 for 925 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions) and Jarrett Guarantano (12-of-24 for 54 yards and one touchdown) deliver consistently unimpressive performances. Through five games, those two quarterbacks aren’t reminding anybody of Peyton Manning or even Josh Dobbs.

At the other end of the state, here are Ferguson’s numbers: 116-of-196, 1,535 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.

This isn’t even Ferguson’s first excellent season at Memphis. Last year, he was 280-of-443 passes (63.2 percent) for 3,698 yards, 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. That was his first year at Memphis after moving in from Coffeyville (Kan.) CC.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Ferguson (who redshirted as a freshman at UT in 2013 before moving on) plays in a completely different offense under Tigers coach Mike Norvell, a name likely to get a lot of mentions in discussions of job openings this year. And the opposition Ferguson faces at Memphis doesn’t compare to the defensive challenges seen by Dormady and Guarantano.

RELATED: When the coaching carousel starts to spin, keep an eye on Memphis’ Mike Norvell

Still, 5,200-plus yards in a year and a half is 5,200-plus yards. And Tennessee’s offensive production isn’t even in the same ballpark.

Unfortunately for Vols fans, this isn’t an unfamiliar feeling. After all, they’ve just seen Nathan Peterman blossom from a Tennessee reject to a starter at Pitt to a fifth-round NFL draft pick to a backup quarterback on the Buffalo Bills behind Tyrod Taylor.

Ferguson could be following the same path. Multiple analysts view him as a potential draft choice next spring, most likely in the middle rounds.

At this rate, Tennessee fans probably are expecting Sheriron Jones, who transferred from the program this year, to surface as a Heisman candidate next season.

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