It looks like Tennessee's choice for a starting quarterback just got a little easier. Fifth-year quarterback Nick Stephens quit the team Thursday with a little over a week left in spring practice.
Stephens was frustrated with his loss of first team snaps during the course of spring practice. In his first scrimmage he did not perform very well (none of the quarterbacks really did) and head coach Derek Dooley took away some of his snaps with the first team.
It looks like he will probably go somewhere he can land a sure starting position, most likely in his home state of Texas.
His departure leaves junior college transfer Matt Simms as the leading candidate to succeed Jonathan Crompton as the Volunteers' starting quarterback. He will compete with freshman Tyler Bray, who, like Simms, was given more practice reps with the first team Tuesday after the coaches evaluated last Saturday's scrimmage.
Stephens is the third prominent member of the Vols to leave this spring. Sophomore running back Bryce Brown left, but his status is still up in the air, and sophomore Aaron Douglas, the only returning starter in the offensive line, quit the team for personal reasons.
Dooley remains optimistic about the squad, but it has been really tough predicting how the team will perform this fall.
I have confidence in Bray and Simms, but they have not experienced the SEC wars. Losing Douglas is still the biggest loss since he was the only starter left on the offensive line. No matter how great your quarterback is, if the defense is in the backfield by the time he drops back to pass, he won't get it off.
I still remain confident in Coach Dooley and his ability to rebuild the Vols, but it might take a few seasons to get the wins back up to where fans on Rocky Top want them. No matter how bad the situation gets, do not give up on the Vols!