UT's top quarterbacks

Rating Tennessee's top five quarterbacks of the 1964-2004 time period is tougher than you'd think. No one spends more time under the microscope than the QB, and that's especially true at Tennessee. Shortcomings are recognized, scrutinized and analyzed. For instance:

Peyton Manning had a mind like a steel trap but couldn't beat Florida. Heath Shuler was amazing but cut short a spectacular career in favor of NFL riches. Tony Robinson was all-world but missed the last half of his senior year with an ACL tear. Condredge Holloway was electrifying but didn't win enough games. Tee Martin won a national title as a junior but underachieved as a senior.

Regardless, here's my ranking of Tennessee's top five quarterbacks between 1964-2004:

5. TEE MARTIN: After completing just 8 of 16 passes in two seasons as Peyton Manning's understudy, Martin blossomed as a junior. He completed 57.3 percent of his passes for 2,164 yards and ran for another 287 yards in guiding Tennessee to a 13-0 record and the 1998 national title. He mysteriously regressed in 1999, however, completing just 54.1 percent and throwing a mere 12 TD passes as the Vols finished 9-3. Even so, Martin ranks fifth on UT's career passing and career total offense lists.

4. CONDREDGE HOLLOWAY: The greatest athlete ever to player quarterback at UT, Holloway turned down a basketball scholarship from UCLA's John Wooden and big bucks from Major League Baseball's Montreal Expos to sign a football scholarship with Tennessee. In three years as the starting QB he passed for 3,102 yards and ran for another 966. Hampered by injuries and a modest supporting cast, however, he led the Vols to a mere 7-3-2 record as a senior in 1974. Holloway went on to enjoy a brilliant career in the Canadian Football League.

3. TONY ROBINSON: Simply put, the guy known as "T-Rob" was the finest pure passer in Vol history. He had the quickest release and the most velocity I've ever seen. Because he was a late bloomer, he started just 15 career games before suffering a major knee injury midway through his senior season. Still, he completed 61.6 percent of his career passes for 3,332 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also ran for 201 yards. Robinson wasn't the world's greatest field general but, as a passer, he was without equal.

2. HEATH SHULER: His velocity was close to Tony Robinson's and his mobility was close to Holloway's. In short, Shuler was a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare – a guy capable of beating you with his arm or his feet. Despite starting just two seasons, he threw for 4,088 yards and 36 TDs. Shuler ran for 286 yards as a sophomore in 1992 but UT coaches felt he was too valuable to risk injury, so they kept him in the pocket in ‘93. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting that year and almost certainly would've won it in ‘94 if he'd stuck around for his senior year.

1. PEYTON MANNING: Granted, he never beat Florida. But he tops virtually every passing and total offense category to be found in the UT record book. He threw for 14 more career touchdowns and 1,494 more career yards than runner-up Casey Clausen. He was a top-10 finisher in the Heisman balloting as a sophomore (sixth), junior (eighth) and senior (second). I heard he's gone on to play a little pro ball, too.


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