When Tennessee’s three scholarship quarterbacks – Justin Worley, Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman – took the stage for UT’s pre-camp press conference at the end of July, it was Worley and Dobbs who fielded a vast majority of the questions.
That made sense at the time. Worley, a rising senior, is by far the most experienced quarterback on the roster with 17 games played and nearly 2,000 passing yards in his career. He was Tennessee’s starter for every game he was healthy in 2013, with the exception of the Florida game.
And Dobbs finished the season at the helm after a rash of injuries to the other quarterbacks. He started the final four games and certainly showed flashes of potential. That carried over to the Orange and White Spring Game, where Dobbs looked like the most polished QB on the roster.
But nearly two weeks into fall camp, it’s Peterman who is creating a lot of the buzz.
“I think Nathan Peterman really took some really important steps in moving forward today,” Butch Jones said after a situational scrimmage over the weekend.
Peterman has been throwing the ball with a significant level of confidence and has been making good decisions throughout fall camp. It’s a remarkable comeback story after his lone start in 2013 went about as poorly as possible. Then a redshirt freshman, Peterman made a start against his home-state school, the Florida Gators, early last year.
He completed just 4 of 11 passes for five yards, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in UT’s loss. He also sustained a broken hand near the end of the first half that not only benched him for the rest of that game, but virtually ended his chances of playing again in 2013.
“My goal has been to go out there and make the game what it’s supposed to be: to make it fun,” Peterman said after the recent scrimmage. “All our coaches do a great job of preparing us to go out there and play. When it’s time to go out there, my goal has been to have fun and trust I know the way how to do it.”
Peterman’s development has made the quarterback race interesting. Worley, who takes most of the snaps with the first-team offense during the open periods of practice, is still the odds-on favorite to win the starting job.
“Justin Worley is starting to play with much more confidence, more command on the line of scrimmage,” Jones said. “We still need more, but I see that overall development starting to happen.”
Dobbs has slipped some in the pecking order after a rough start to camp. Jones is almost ready to make the call – a decision that could come at any point this week as the Vols are now within three weeks of their opener against Utah State.
“We are getting closer to naming a starting quarterback,” Jones said Monday. “I am going to go back and watch the film this morning, a little bit tonight, but I expect if things go the way they have been going we will name a starting quarterback at some point this week.
“But again, I am not going to set any timeframes. If it happens, it happens. There are no deadlines, we have time, but again, I think we are getting closer to a decision in regards to our quarterback position.”
It’s a decision that is more interesting due to Peterman’s decision. It’s also a choice that will have a huge effect on the outcome of Tennessee’s 2014 season.