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.

This is the second coming of a straw breaking. PHOTO CREDIT: Adam Brimer / GoVolsXtra.com

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.

Is this the beginning of the Justin Worley era? PHOTO CREDIT: Adam Brimer/GoVolsXrta.com

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.


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7 responses to “When Opportunity Knocks, Big Things Can Happen”

  1. Orangebobber says :

    It iis obvious that Sims is not the answer. We cannot win wioth him at the helm. His arm is not good enough to stretch the field and we do not have good enough weapons supporting him to cover that glaring weakness. I feel for the kid but he needed to be div 2 quarterback somewhere. At least the center exchanges looked a lot better so we improved in that area.

    I afraid though that Dooley has some coaching weakness on his staff and unless he takes care of them it will keep biting us. I am talking about 2 coaches that I think are not getting it done. They are the Offensive Coordinator calling plays and the secondary coach. The offensive coordinator is back to calling the say way Fulmer used to do it . Predictable run up the middle 1st down, run play second down, pass thirid down. Listen when you are playing a no. 1 or 2 team, you have to take some chances with your offense. You cannot be plain vanilla and expect to win. We needed to use all the tricks in the bag, yet we stayed plain vanilla. To predictable.

    The other coach who is doing a poor job is the secondary coach. These guys are making the same mistakes over and over which tells me that they are not being taught good skill. Teague for instance is getting beat every game. Teach him to back off the line and give more margin. He gets uip close and the players blow right by him. Sure they are faster than him so he has tobe taught to compensate in other ways. Not being done so Terry Joseph’s coaching ability is a big question mark to me.

    • norcalvol says :

      I feel for Simms, too. He;s obviously a pretty talented and intelligent kid.

      I think the play calling issue might be a function of the QB. I don’t have the stats to prove this, but there was a lot more throwing on first down with Bray than with Simms.

      As for the secondary, I’m shocked. Even with Jackson off the squad at the beginning of the season, the secondary was to be the shining star of the defense in the minds of some, and the LBs were to be the biggest question mark. The season has proved those to be just the reverse.

  2. tk says :

    this secondary in my opinion does bump tackling. they dont wrap the opponent up, they just try to bang him down by shoves and hard hits. they have to TACKLE!!! i agree with fred in that some of the play calling is tied in with the qb situation. i loved watching the new orleans saints kickoffs last nite. about the shortest one was 8 yards deep into the end zone. i know its the pros but i had forgotten that kickoffs could go past the ten. and freddy please do us a statistic on UT first half scoring vs second half scoring in the dooley era. later orange people.

    • norcalvol says :

      I know how you feel about the tackling. It is one of those facets of the game that has changed over the years.
      Remember how Eric Berry used to ‘tackle’ much of the time (just as you describe), and as great as he was, that used to really frustrate me.
      Remember Roland James? He was probably the best outright tackler (great technique) as a CB/S that I can remember ever seeing for the Vols. That was a long time ago.

  3. rockytop78 says :

    Well, your crystal ball is clearer than mine — I just read where Justin Worley has been named the starter for the South Carolina game, and Marcus Jackson is taking over for James Stone at left guard (Bullard stays at center).

    Depending on whether Bray makes it back for the Vandy game (and Worley continues as the starter), we could an interesting match-up down the road between Worley and Vandy’s quarterback Jordan Rodgers.

    I have to applaud Dooley’s decision to go with Worley. I respect Simms, who has played hard for UT but just not well, and who has not been able to get the job done. This is much like calling the fake punt in the Alabama game: Dooley is willing to roll the dice and make choices that he thinks will help the team win now, and are for the greater good. I don’t know whether it will work out in the end, but I’m glad that Dooley is taking the chance.

    • norcalvol says :

      I am glad, too.

      I figured that Simms would likely get the start Saturday and Worley would get significant playing time against S. Car. and then start against MTSU. But leave it to Dooley to take bold steps – he does during games (fake FGs, OS kicks, 4th downs, etc.) and during the weeks before games.

      My biggest concern with Worley starting corresponds to Bray’s history last season. Bray was given increasingly significant time as a sub for Simms but wasn’t given a start until the Memphis game. This time around, Dooley is putting it all in by throwing Worley into the deep end right away.

      It is an interesting and bold decision. I support it all the way. I can’t wait to see the game.

      Regarding Stone – he seemed to be wandering aimlessly at times in Tuscaloosa.

  4. tk says :

    i never had a doubt dooley would start worley against SC from the moment he inserted him in the bama game. is there a replacement for teague too…….he bothers me. and freddy why has the game gone to this style tackling do you think. and are you working like ants on that first half/second half statistic for me………!?!?!?!? if i remember correctly mr. dickey used to do lots of this fake punt and associated stuff back in his day.

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