"We believe [insert player name] gives us the best chance to win." We hear it from coaches all the time as football fans. Is it always true? Sometimes I wonder. But with Butch Jones at the helm of the Tennessee Volunteers, rest assured: he means it.
After an open competition for the starting quarterback position, Jones named Justin Worley the starter just days before the 2013 opener against Austin Peay. Since then, the junior has had three underwhelming games, and the radio lines have been loaded with callers demanding a quarterback change.
"Fire Butch Jones!" yelled one caller on 99.1 FM The Sports Animal in Knoxville minutes after the Oregon loss. Numerous other more sober-minded fans pleaded with Jones to see what they see—that Worley isn't the guy.
Maybe they have a point.
In his six career starts, Worley has tallied 962 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions, while completing 57.6 percent of his passes. At that rate, he'll be lucky to reach the "game manager" level. Right now, he's still at an entry-level position.
With the Vols offense stuck in neutral for most of the game against Oregon, Jones commented on the lack of big plays numerous times in his Monday press conference, saying, "We just need to find ways to generate big, explosive plays."
The longest passing play of the year was a 15-yard catch turned into a 51-yard gain by true freshman receiver Josh Smith. Before that, it was Worley's underthrown pass to JUCO transfer Johnathan Johnson against Western Kentucky. The play totaled 37 yards, but a 50-yard touchdown was there had the ball been delivered properly.
It's this inaccuracy that's most troubling. The stats don't show a terribly inaccurate passer, but watching any of the Volunteers' three games this season reveals a different story: Justin Worley hasn't settled into the position.
If he doesn't soon, Jones has no problem making a move, remarking, "Whatever quarterback has the best week of practice will be the starter for Tennessee when we play Florida."
Believe him when he says that, folks. With a 6-2 record last year at Cincinnati, Butch Jones changed his starting quarterback from Munchie Legaux to Brendon Kay. This is one coach who means it when he says there's always a competition for the starting spot and the best player will play.
If and when the radio phones start ringing again for a quarterback change, just remember that it's already taken care of by the Vols' highly proactive coach.
Butch Jones made it quite clear: "Losing will never, ever be tolerated here or accepted at the University of Tennessee."
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