UT currently has four quarterbacks on scholarships including one true freshman (Nick Stephens), one red shirt freshman (Jonathan Crompton), one red shirt junior (Bo Hardegree) and a true junior (Erik Ainge). The Vols recently committed Chattanooga McCallie senior QB, B.J. Coleman, for its Class of 2007 which brings the scholarship total to five for next fall.
It would appear the position is as deep as its ever been. As a means of comparison look at 1995 when the Vols only scholarship signal caller was Peyton Manning, who was backed up by wide receiver Jermaine Copeland. In 1996 and 1997, the Vols had two scholarship QBs. Anybody recall who UT's back-up quarterback was during the national title season of 1998? What about when the Vols went 11-2 in 2001?
The point is the Vols have done very well with one or two quarterbacks in the past. So why do they suddenly need five next season? For that matter, why are they still recruiting QBs for the Class of 2007? Another commitment, and there's at least one quarterback prospect who favors UT, would raise that total to six, but only one to this point that's ever played in a college game. None of the five currently on the roster or committed project at any other position on the collegiate level.
Of the current list of quarterbacks UT has outstanding offers to Tyrod Taylor, who is ranked the nation's No. 7 signal caller, four-star prospect Joe Haden, three-star C.J. Kinne, who could play safety, and non-ranked Joe Chaisson, who favors the Vols over offers from Baylor, LSU, Iowa State and Missouri. Tennessee has also extended an offer to four-star signal caller Logan Gray, although he recently eliminated the Vols as a choice.
The last time Tennessee loaded up on quarterbacks was in 2000 when it signed Jon Rattay and Casey Clausen to join existing veterans C.J. Suggs and Joey Mathews in the QB battle. However, by the time the 2001 season rolled around all but Clausen had transferred to other schools or quit football altogether. Similarly, after the 1994 season Brandon Stewart and Todd Helton left the program after Manning established himself as the starter.
Coincidentally, Manning assumed the mantle after fifth year senior Jerry Colquitt and Helton suffered injuries. In 2004, Rick Clausen inherited the starting role after both Ainge and Brent Schaffer went down with injuries. That led to last season's quarterback shuffle in which Rick Clausen and Ainge swapped the starting job.
Will UT's ongoing quarterback acquisition effort lead to another mass exodus on The Hill? Or is Tennessee's staff anticipating a need for more signal callers and taking preemptive actions?
Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain when you're talking about quarterbacks: Sometimes two is too many and other times three is not enough.