Ground 0 a 'great thing' for Vols QBs

Tennessee is starting completely over at the quarterback position in more than one way.

Ground 0.

That’s essentially where Tennessee is at quarterback with kickoff 159 days away.

Not only have the four candidates to replace Joshua Dobbs totaled 40 collegiate passes but the Vols’ brand spanking new quarterbacks coach, Mike Canales, has worn orange on a Shields-Watkins Field sideline zero times.

Larry Scott, who’s been a collegiate offensive coordinator for zero games and zero seasons, believes that having a clean canvas of signal-callers with which to work is an above-average quality.

“That’s a great thing, that’s a great thing,” Scott said after Thursday’s practice on Haslam Field. “Anytime you can start with Ground 0 with anything it’s always…that’s the fun part about it is building a foundation.”

Canales, who hasn’t taken part in a Tennessee practice inside Neyland Stadium, has been met with enthusiasm in the quarterbacks meeting room. Part of that is his ties to the same Lone Star State that produced two of the Vols’ field generals — Quinten Dormady and Will McBride.

“It’s been awesome,” Dormady told IT. “He’s obviously been a coach for a long time — NFL and college. He’s been a great add to our coaching staff and to the quarterback room.”

Jarrett Guarantano’s footspeed and arm strength have him as a fan favorite by a good portion of Big Orange Country to take over. Like Dormady, Guarantano’s face creates a recognizable smile when Canales’ name is brought up.

“(Canales) really is a great guy, and I think that he’s helped us out so much from the time he’s been here,” Guarantano said. “He’s been showing all different types of fronts, defenses, getting us accustomed to the offense. We have a couple new wrinkles that we’re going to be putting in and just getting ready.”

In the room alongside Dormady, Guarantano and McBride is former Elite 11 finalist and Scout four-star prospect Sheriron Jones. The quartet don’t come across as cutthroat in their bid to take over for what Butch Jones calls a “global position” and the program’s “CEO.”

“We’re always. helping each other out,” Dormady said.

“Me and Quinten are good friends and we have us five, so it’s not just us two,” Guarantano said. “Just remember that Sheriron came here to also start and Willie just came in and he’s here to also start. We’re all good friends. We’re all out here competing. And we just all want to play.”

Another consistently used phrase by Jones when describing what Tennessee seeks out of a starter at any position is “consistency in performance.” Dobbs did a cap-tip of a job of echoing Jones when the cameras were on and reporters were near. His successors have a head start at carrying the company line as well. “Consistency is key,” Guarantano said, “and we’ve been talking about DAT way — details, accountability, toughness, mental toughness, physical toughness — and that’s translated to every single day. It’s on all the walls, and it’s being talked about all the time.”

Who will take the first snap against Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Sept. 4 is a question that won’t soon have an answer. Not only do these Volunteers have to impress Butch Jones, the new coordinator and the new quarterbacks coach, but they must show they can command the offense, gain the respect of teammates, lead the troops and make sound decisions with the football.

Dormady, who certainly looks the part at 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds, is in the midst of his third set of spring practices. Sheriron Jones came from California in Summer 2015. Guarantano, who’s up to 211 pounds, ventured south from Jersey last May. McBride moved to Knoxville in January.

The prerequisites to being Tennessee’s starting quarterback are mostly remedial this spring. Scott said the staff merely wants to see consistency, daily improvement and a fervor to compete. The installation of the playbook, on the other hand, is a pump-the-breaks deal as it’s hard to get to Page 98 in the three-ring binder with coaches in new roles and inexperienced quarterbacks in one spring.

“It’s kind of a balance, it’s kind of a balance,” Scott said. “Because at the same time where you want them to grasp things and get good, you want to challenge them mentally. Sometimes it’s welcomed to be students of the game and to understand that just the time that you spend in the meeting rooms and out on the field sometimes is not enough. Your preparation is critical and it’s key. You have to mark out another 25-30 minutes a night you know in your dorm or in your apartment or come over after study hall or those types of things after you’re done with studies and watch 15 or 20 more minutes of film and those types of things.

“It’s a balance of challenging them mentally. Then also having them come out and be able to really grasp some things so that they’re natural skill set can come through.”

The green horns trot back onto Tennessee’s Bermuda grass for Ground 0 work on Saturday.

Ustate Aggies Top Stories