When Opportunity Knocks, Big Things Can Happen
NOTE: After this article was written and posted, Derek Dooley announced that Justin Worley will be the Vols’ starting QB this Saturday against South Carolina. That announcement does not affect the views presented here; it enhances them.
The thankful end of Saturday night’s game at Alabama may come to be remembered as the beginning of the career of the next great Tennessee Vol quarterback.
I’m surely a heretical figure within the Vol Nation by saying that I’ve yet to be sold (completely) on Tyler Bray as a true big-time college QB. He’s not one.
Now, this all depends on one’s definition of “big-time.” I have my own. Young Tyler hasn’t met mine. Perhaps he’s met yours.
Perhaps he will become one. But that broaches into the territory of fortune tellers and sooth sayers.
No matter. What matters right now is that Matt Simms has all but played himself right out of a job. He’s likely soon to be back holding a clipboard where he probably belongs. That is an option that Derek Dooley has at his disposal now that the red shirt of freshman QB Justin Worley was vaporized by his startling appearance at the very end of Saturday’s game.
With a very important game looming this Saturday, the question is: When?
That decision has likely yet to be made by Dooley and his staff. But it is an interesting coincidence that it was the 2010 South Carolina game where Dooley’s last straw with Matt was broken by Simms’ continued inaccurate passing, locking on a single receiver, and penchant for holding on the the ball too long.
Not much changed in Simms’ game from then until the recent LSU and Bama clashes. Bray’s injury in the Georgia game forced Dooley to find the remnants of that straw and tape them back together. And guess what? That fragile piece of dried grass got snapped in half in Tuscaloosa because its built-in weak spot wasn’t strong enough to overcome all those inaccurate passes, locking on a single receiver, holding on to the ball too long…
As a freshman, Peyton Manning, too, was once a third-string quarterback. It was injuries to Todd Helton and Jerry Colquitt that opened the door to Peyton’s future. The first room entered was a game against Mississippi State that the Vols narrowly lost. But the next week saw Peyton start against Washington State. Tennessee won that game, and then went on to win all but one of the remaining ones.
That was a team with much deeper personnel than our present-day Vols. And, Peyton was a pretty special cat. But things happen when opportunity knocks. Enter Justin Worley, once Tennessee’s third-string QB, and once the Gatorade High School National Player of the Year, just like Manning was once upon a time down in New Orleans.
Whether he starts Saturday or not, I think Worley will eventually start a game before Bray is ready to come back. Dooley has seen quite enough of Simms. Worley is part of the Vols’ future. Simms is not. And that future might include an unexpected Bray-Worley battle for the top QB spot for the next couple of seasons.
Perhaps this is just what we needed to move away from a predictably dull season, just like what happened this time last season in Columbia, South Carolina.
Perhaps this is the best thing that could have happened for Tennessee Volunteer football, period.