Riley's not gone yet
Redshirt freshman quarterback Riley Ferguson may be a part of Tennessee's football program in 2014, after all. Though confirmed through several reliable sources by InsideTennessee on Tuesday night, Ferguson's decision to leave the team might not be etched in stone just yet. IT has learned from a source close to the situation that young Ferguson and his mother will meet with Vol head coach Butch Jones on Thursday, apparently to discuss whether or not the player will be a part of Team 118 come fall. Ferguson's decision does not project to be an easy one. Several family members are Big Orange fans who rejoiced when he signed with Tennessee in February of 2013. Conversely, Ferguson already missed the 2013 season due to injury and appears likely to play a backup role to senior quarterback Justin Worley in 2014. In leading Butler High School of Matthews, N.C., to state titles in 2010 and 2012, Ferguson lost just two games as a starting quarterback during his prep career. He committed to Tennessee prior to his senior season, then had to withstand last-minute pressure from Alabama and Louisville when Vol head man Derek Dooley was fired following the 2012 season. Ferguson wound up honoring his commitment to the Big Orange and signing with Jones, Dooley's successor, in February of 2013. Ferguson's national profile had grown significantly by then, thanks to making the finals of the prestigious Elite Eleven quarterback camp. He and fellow 2013 signee Joshua Dobbs (Alpharetta, Ga.), another Elite Eleven finalist, were considered threats to win Tennessee's first-team quarterback job for 2013, despite the presence of Worley, who already had three college starts to his credit. Neither Ferguson nor Dobbs enrolled in time to participate in spring practice, so they were well behind Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman when preseason camp opened last August. Still, Ferguson quickly impressed practice observers with his big-time arm and accuracy. He appeared to be the No. 3 quarterback when he accompanied the Vols on their Game 3 road trip to Florida, while Dobbs remained in Knoxville. Worley suffered a season-ending thumb injury in Game 8 against Alabama, leaving an opening for a backup QB. With Ferguson recovering from a stress fracture in his leg, however, Dobbs wound up starting the last four games and Ferguson wound up redshirting. The quarterback competition was re-opened in spring practice but Worley's experience seemed to give him an edge over Dobbs, Ferguson and Peterman. Ferguson's bid to be the No. 1 quarterback in 2014 may have taken a small hit in the Orange & White Game, when he completed 7 of 12 passes for 83 yards, with an interception and three sacks. Tennessee does not have a quarterback in its 2014 signing class. If Ferguson sticks by his decision to leave, the Vols will have just Worley, Dobbs and Peterman as scholarship QBs.
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