Losing Kelly no big deal

Tennessee football fans should not be terribly surprised that signee Casey Kelly this week signed a pro baseball contract with Boston rather than attend college. Nor should they be terribly disappointed.

Here's why:

Even without Casey Kelly, the Vols have three scholarship quarterbacks on their 2008 roster – junior Jonathan Crompton, sophomore Nick Stephens and redshirt freshman B. J. Coleman. Wide receiver Gerald Jones, who played the position in high school, could handle the job in a pinch.

Correctly anticipating that Kelly would choose pro baseball over college football, Tennessee committed two QBs for its 2009 signing class – Josh Nunes (Upland, Calif.) and Bryce Petty (Midlothian, Texas). So, even without Kelly, Tennessee projects to have five scholarship quarterbacks on campus for the 2009 season, and four of them could be back for 2010.

Even if Kelly had spurned the Red Sox and enrolled at UT, you have to wonder how productive he would've been on the gridiron. Football requires total commitment – particularly if you're playing quarterback – and Kelly's allegiance surely would've been divided.

His situation is remarkably similar to that of former Vol quarterback Todd Helton, who postponed his Major League aspirations long enough to play three years of college football. Helton was a good QB but baseball clearly was his first love and his meal ticket. Ultimately, he served as a bridge between the Heath Shuler era and the Peyton Manning era in UT football. Odds are, Kelly would've served as the bridge between Crompton and someone else.

Although several Tennessee quarterback signees have doubled as baseball players through the years, only one enjoyed great success on the gridiron. That would be Condredge Holloway, and the only reason he honored his UT football scholarship was because he was too young to sign a pro baseball contract as a high school senior and his mother refused to co-sign.

Holloway made 32 starts as a Vol quarterback between 1972 and '74, completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 3,102 career yards and 18 touchdowns, with just 12 interceptions. He was the All-SEC quarterback as a junior in 1973.

Successor Randy Wallace was a serviceable QB but nothing special. He started 23 games in 1975 and '76, completing 50.8 percent of his passes for 2,536 career yards. He threw more career interceptions (17) than touchdowns (13).

Alan Cockrell was the next big-time baseball prospect to try quarterbacking the Big Orange. Like Wallace, he was capable but not memorable. He started 25 games between 1981 and '83, completing 55.8 percent of his passes for 3,823 yards. He also threw more interceptions (27) than touchdowns (26).

Helton rode the bench in football throughout 1992 and '93, then was thrust into the starting quarterback job when Jerry Colquitt tore an ACL in Game 1 of '94. Helton started the next three games, losing two, then surrendered the job to a baby-faced freshman named Peyton Manning. Helton's career numbers show a 54.7 percent completion rate for 484 yards, with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

One other UT quarterback, the late Jimmy Streater, also played for the Diamond Vols. His foray onto the diamond was more a case of dabbling than doubling, however, as he only played his senior year. A three-year starter at QB, he completed 51.6 percent of his passes for 3,433 yards. He finished with 17 career TD passes and 30 career interceptions.

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