“It was typical Justin Worley,” head coach Butch Jones said Thursday, moments after announcing Worley as the Game 1 starter. “He was very business-like. He expected to be the starter from Day 1. He got up and said, ‘Let’s go, Coach.’”
So Worley is “The Guy” … at least for now.
The announcement of Worley comes as no surprise, since he was the starter in 2013 before suffering a season-ending thumb injury in Game 8 at Alabama.
Jones said Worley is “playing the best football he’s played in a long time” and “gives us the best chance to win.” He also praised the senior for his “body of work” and his ability to make “split-second decisions.” Jones dismissed the notion that a young team like Tennessee needs a senior quarterback, noting: “The best players are going to play.”
Worley is not flashy. In fact, Jones said one of the senior’s best plays in Wednesday night’s scrimmage was a throw-away on third down in a red-zone drill that enabled the No. 1 offense to kick a field goal on the next play.
Sophomores Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs competed with Worley all spring and thus far in preseason but simply failed to perform impressively enough to wrest the job from the incumbent. Jones said the competition for the No. 2 job is “ongoing,” adding that “each brings a different dynamic.”
Worley started three games as a freshman in 2011 when starter Tyler Bray was injured – beating Middle Tennessee between losses to South Carolina and Arkansas. He started seven of the first eight games last fall – beating Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, South Alabama and South Carolina. He also started in losses to Oregon, Georgia and Alabama.
Dobbs started the final four games of 2013 – losing to Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt before directing a win at Kentucky. Peterman started last fall’s loss at Florida.
Asked following Wednesday night’s scrimmage if he saw Worley stepping up as the season approaches, Jones nodded.
“He did,” the coach said. “I see the confidence growing and growing and growing.”
Although Worley’s practice performances were somewhat uneven, Jones felt it was best for the team to go ahead and tab him to start the opener.
‘I think it’s important to our football team in moving forward that they know who the starting quarterback is,” Jones said Wednesday night.