Though he didn't come out and say it, Butch Jones indicated Thursday that senior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson are ahead in Tennessee's four-man quarterback derby, according to a pair of tweets by the football team's official Twitter account combined below:
We are balancing repetitions. Justin & Riley have taken more reps and they will continue to. Nate & Josh continue to progress. So much growth in a player can occur over summer months. We will make a decision on our starter in training camp.
Everybody wants to see Ferguson—the only one of the bunch who didn't have live game action in 2013—and Saturday will be their chance. Sophomores Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman are also in the mix, but it appears they've fallen behind.
All have shown flashes this spring, and Saturday will be a big test in front of thousands.
Freshman midterm enrollee Jalen Hurd has impressed the coaches all spring, as noted by Volquest's Rob Lewis (subscription required), but that doesn't mean he has seized the starting role from Marlin Lane.
Even though Lane suffered a broken bone in his hand, he has toughed it out and continues to receive reps with the first team. He may be limited on Saturday, but he and Hurd will be duking it out well into the fall.
Tennessee has upgraded its talent pool at tight end significantly with the additions of freshmen Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm.
Alex Ellis and Woody Quinn also appear to have carved out a place in the battle for playing time. Once Brendan Downs and A.J. Branisel get healthy, the position looks like it could be very deep for the Vols.
While tight end isn't one of those positions everybody gets excited about, it's vital to Jones' offense to have talent there. So, the position is worth watching.
While Owen Williams has been constantly getting first-team reps, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, both of those interior spots are wide open.
Danny O'Brien hasn't seized control of his starting tackle spot, allowing Jordan Williams to shift inside some, as well as opening the door for athletic freshman Dimarya Mixon.
When Trevarris Saulsberry returns from his injury in the fall, UT will have some more options. But the Vols are looking for consistency, and if they can't find it, 2014 might be a long year.