Tennessee Opening Up Its QB Competition Is a Panic Move by Butch Jones
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With wins in back-to-back weeks, the Butch Jones era at Tennessee was off to an encouraging start. After all, the outcome was never really in doubt in a shutout win over Austin Peay and a 52-20 win over Western Kentucky.
Then the Oregon game happened, and Vol Nation became restless yet again.
Following the 59-14 drubbing at the hands of the Ducks in Eugene, head coach Butch Jones is considering making a change at quarterback, according to the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press.
"Just like any position in our program, it's open, and whatever quarterback has the best week of practice will be the starter for Tennessee when we play Florida," Jones said on Tuesday. "If that's Josh Dobbs running the read option, or Riley Ferguson, that's what we'll do, but we have to create big plays, and that's going to be a focus in preparation this week."
Hold on just a second.
Justin Worley wasn't great against Oregon, completing 13 of his 26 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. But it wasn't his fault Tennessee's defense looked like it was playing 7-on-11 against the dangerous Ducks offense.
He's still completing 61.4 percent of his passes (35-of-57) for five touchdowns and only one interception. Those stats don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, especially since he's only completed five passes of 20 or more yards in three games.
"Like I told our quarterbacks, the starting quarterback is like a pitcher in baseball," Jones said on the SEC coaches' teleconference. "You are measured by your win/loss record."
Opening up the quarterback job now is a panic move. All it does is bring instability to a program that's been living with instability since the start of the 2008 season.
Worley won the job during fall camp. Granted, it was the week before the season opener, but he still won the job.
Let him have the job.
He has, by far, the most experience of any of the quarterbacks on Tennessee's roster. Heading into Saturday's game at Florida, does Jones really want to trot out a new starter against the best defense in the SEC (208.5 YPG) in one of the nation's most hostile environments for an opposing quarterback?
Should Butch Jones consider making a quarterback switch after only three games?
Sure, Jones could be opening up the competition in name only simply to plant a seed of doubt in the mind of Florida head coach Will Muschamp and the Gators' coaching staff. If that's the case, it's not working.
"We've only seen Worley and (Nathan) Peterman on film," Muschamp said. "Different guys have different strengths, and they're going to accentuate those guys in different ways. We will make our adjustments on game day."
If Tennessee wants to be competitive, it needs to stick with Worley. He's been effective for the majority of the 2013 season, and making a change will trickle down and have a negative effect on the continuity of the entire offense.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand from the weekly SEC coaches teleconference.
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