Dormady swims but learns

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He's swimming this spring but Quinten Dormady just might make a splash come fall.

Tennessee's strong-armed freshman quarterback is learning something each time he takes the practice field this spring. For instance, Tuesday he learned that you can't please everyone.

Seeing no one open in a red-zone drill, he intentionally lobbed the ball out of bounds. The caution tickled head coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who prefer settling for a field goal to risking an end-zone interception. Not everyone was thrilled with the decision, however. Primary receiver Alton Howard, for instance.

“He came up to me after I threw one out of bounds to him,” Dormady recalled following the workout. “He said, ‘Hey, just let me go up and make a play.’ That’s just a learning experience. There’s a lot to learn, and that’s one of the things: He’s an NFL-type receiver, and I just have to let him go up and make a play.”

Tennessee has several NFL-caliber receivers on its roster. Four workouts into spring practice they already have Dormady gushing with praise. They’re several notches above what he threw to as a high school senior back in Boerne, Texas, last fall.

“Outstanding,” he said. “It’s great to be able to just throw the ball up and let them go make a play. I think I can do a better job of letting them make plays and not having to be so perfect all the time. I think in some of the goal-line stuff I can put it up and let them go make a play a little bit more than I am right now."

Determining which receivers he can trust in jump-ball situations is one of several dozen lessons Dormady is trying to learn these days. The life of a freshman quarterback is all about gathering information — in the classroom and on the practice field.

"Obviously, there’s a lot more plays, a new system and that sort of thing,” he said when asked about all of the adjustments he’s having to make. “The speed of the game is a lot faster. Like I said: I’m getting in the playbook all the time. You have to go to class, be able to separate that and come here and flip the switch. I'm still trying to figure that out right now."

Like all freshman quarterbacks, Dormady and classmate Jauan Jennings find being bombarded with information on a daily basis a little dizzying.

“They’re swimming,” Butch Jones said, grinning broadly.

So, what’s the most important thing the head man looks for in a freshman quarterback?

“It gets back to managing the offense, making good decisions with the football, retention of the offense, never making the same mistake twice,” Jones said. “We talk about being a CEO quarterback. The big thing for Quinten and Jauan is owning the line of scrimmage with their voice inflection, with their verbalization of the offense, their cadence — all of the little things that mature quarterbacks understand. We’re really trying to accelerate the process.

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“We also want perfect quarterback fundamentals. What do they do when a play breaks down? Can they make a first down with their feet? Can they operate the scramble drill? How’s their accuracy? We want consistency in approach and performance each and every day. I’ve been very encouraged by Josh (Dobbs), by Jauan and by Quinten."

Coming off a spectacular finish to his sophomore season, Dobbs has a vise-like grip on the first-team quarterback job. Dormady and Jennings are locked in a battle for the second-team job this spring, with fellow signee Sheriron Jones joining the competition in the summer.

“You want to go out and compete,” Dormady said. “Obviously, Josh is the starter but I’m trying to push him to make him better and he’s pushing me.”

Those familiar with recent Vol history know that the second-team quarterback is one of the most important players on the team. Dobbs was thrust into the first-team role in both 2013 and 2014 when Justin Worley was injured, just as Worley had to step in when Tyler Bray went down in 2011. With Tennessee’s second-team quarterback starting multiple games in three of the past four seasons, Dormady is intent on being ready if 2015 follows the same pattern.

“There’s always been a sense of urgency with him,” Jones said. “Quinten is extremely hard on himself. He digests every single play, which is what you want from a player.”

Dormady’s sense of urgency stalled in January. Due to a labrum injury in his right shoulder, he couldn’t throw for his first month on campus. Undaunted, he watched film, lifted weights, studied his playbook and did everything in his power to prepare for the 2015 season.

“If he wasn’t able to throw because of his shoulder he was doing the mental part of the game,” Jones noted. “He’s the son of a head football coach, so he has that work ethic and that football intelligence.”

There is no greater example of football intelligence than Dobbs, an honors student who is just as knowledgeable about QB play as he is about Aeronautical Engineering.

“He’s helping me with which throws to make and who’s the better receivers on which matchup … a ton of the mental side of the game,” Dormady said. “When he’s out there (getting practice reps) I try to learn from the things he’s doing good and from the mistakes.”

As much as he’d love to be the first-team quarterback, the freshman recognizes each day in practice why Dobbs is “The Man” for the present time.

“He’s extremely smart,” Dormady said. “He has been in the system. He’s got an arm, he’s got good feet. He’s the whole package. I'm just trying to learn from him. Obviously, he has had SEC starts and succeeded, so I’m just taking everything I can from him."

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