Photo by Danny Parker

Way-too-early look at 2-deep for Vols offense

The start to the 2017 Tennessee football season is many moons away, but that doesn't mean we can't start debating now who will be the Vols' starters against Georgia Tech.

Let the debate begin.

Tennessee’s Butch Jones won’t need to induce a quarterback controversy to create competition the way the late Bill Walsh did with the San Francisco 49ers. The Vols coach heads into this fifth season as the “caretaker” of the Big Orange throne and has the toughest decision as to who his quarterback is must come in almost exactly nine months.

Quinten Dormady ran Jones’ offense his senior season at Boerne (Texas) High School, enrolled in Spring 2015, knows the system and is the only returning signal-caller that’s ever been in front of the Knoxville media.

The 6-foot-4, 216-pound Dormady has 39 pass attempts in 10 games played, which are 39 more pass attempts and 10 more games than the other three options combined. That trio consists of redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, rising redshirt sophomore Sheriron Jones and midyear enrollee Will McBride.

It’ll be a daunting task to replace Joshua Dobbs’ experience (37 games, 999 pass attempts), leadership (team captain), playmaking ability (86 career touchdowns) and toughness (not injured in four years).

“I feel like the future is very bright,” Dobbs said after the 14-point Music City Bowl win over Nebraska on Friday. “Our seniors and upperclassmen, since the underclassmen have gotten on campus, the sophomores and freshmen, we've instilled in them our drive, our hard work, our work ethic. Because you know, we know what it's like to go 5-7 and not go to a bowl game and be in there Monday morning after the last game doing workouts and just wanting to go home.

“So we have felt that, and so we've instilled that in them. So they understand, you know, what to do, how to take the reigns, how to word hard, how to continue to grow, how to approach each practice as if it's a game and make the most of each rep.

“I’m definitely excited to see what the future holds for the University of Tennessee football program.”

Quarterbacks don’t like to sit the bench and a bevy of talent has already patiently waited for Dobbs to move on.

The answer for Dobbs replacement won’t come when spring practices commence, won’t come after the Orange & White game and won’t come at the onset of training camp. A starter probably won’t be named until September. However, Dobbs’ back-up the last two years does have a leg up on the competition.

Given that we expect Dormady to start against Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Sept. 4, “11” personnel is the formation believed to be in use more often as the attack moves slightly more toward aerial strengths (517 rushes, 379 pass attempts in 2016). We also make this two-deep projection under the assumption that running back Alvin Kamara (1,977 career yards from scrimmage, 24 total TDs) and wide receiver Josh Malone (104 career receptions, 1,608 yards, 14 TDs) are a part of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Listed in the starting lineup are eight players that have at least one Tennessee start under their belt with much of the experience coming in the trenches, led by tight end Ethan Wolf (34 career starts), guard Jashon Robertson (34), center Coleman Thomas (26) and tackle Brett Kendrick (19).

The wild cards of the group are incoming freshmen Ty Chandler and Trey Smith. Both are skilled Scout 100 talents who could push for starting jobs early in their Tennessee careers. Chandler may get freshman year starts if the Vols go to two-back sets. Smith’s versatility could have him spelling upperclassmen at guard or tackle.

Aside from signal-caller, the toughest debate is the right guard spot. We slotted Jack Jones in there, but the Murfreesboro native has never redshirted and if the Vols could allow him a year of development, he could take over for Thomas and be a two-year starter at center, which is the position he will should play if he’s going to have an NFL career. Venzell Boulware proved capable last fall and Smith is physically advanced enough as a teenager to play right away. When healthy, Chance Hall can play at any of a number of positions, but he's suffered multiple injuries dating back to his final year in high school.

Slot receiver is another debate. Byrd and Smith will be interchangeable but don’t discount the explosive ability of the redshirted LaTrell Williams and incoming playmaker Jordan Murphy.

Here’s the way-too-early look at IT’s projected two-deep for the Orange & White:


TE Ethan Wolf
LT Drew Richmond
LG Jashon Robertson
C Coleman Thomas
RG Jack Jones
RT Brett Kendrick
X Jauan Jennings
SLOT Tyler Byrd
Z Marquez Callaway
QB Quinten Dormady
TB John Kelly


TE Jakob Johnson
LT Marcus Tatum
LG Trey Smith
C Ryan Johnson
RG Venzell Bouwlare
RT Chance Hall
X Brandon Johnson
SLOT Josh Smith
Z Jeff George
QB Jarrett Guarantano
TB Ty Chandler


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