QB battle begins

Some college coaches hope to name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practice. Tennessee's Derek Dooley operates under no such illusion. Selecting a QB is a process that started with today's first spring practice and may not end until the 2010 season does.

"I can tell you this: The quarterback position will not be settled by the end of spring," Dooley said this week. "This is a body of work over time. Once we get to a decision on who we go with, sometimes it's still not settled until we get out there and prove we can move the chains and score points."

Day 1 was roughly what Dooley expected. Scholarship quarterbacks Nick Stephens, Nick Lamaison, Matt Simms and Tyler Bray looked like four guys struggling to remember their lessons and refine their mechanics.

"It's real early, and they're rusty," Dooley said following the first of 14 workouts. "The hardest (working) guys the first day out there are the quarterbacks because they have to learn so much. You're almost happy if they can just spit out the huddle call the right way and hand the ball off the right way. There's a long way to go but it was a good first day."

Senior wide receiver Gerald Jones was a bit more complimentary of the passers after catching some of their throws.

"All of 'em did pretty good today," Jones said. "Nick Stephens did a great job. Simms actually impressed me a lot, made some pretty good throws. Once they dust the rust off they'll be all right."

Asked specifically about freshman Bray, Jones replied, "He made a couple of mistakes but he made some good passes, too."

Quarterbacks have more information to digest and assimilate than any other position. They also depend more on teamwork than any other position. The QB must know exactly what his receiver is going to do, when he's going to make his cut and where he's going to be when the ball is delivered. Developing these knacks takes plenty of repetitions and plenty of time.

"It's something that don't happen overnight," Jones said. "They'll have to work on it but, with more work, they'll get it together."

All of Tennessee's QBs have the requisite height and arm strength to play at the major-college level. There's a lot more involved to WIN at the major-college level, however.

"Accuracy is critical," Dooley said. "Judgment and decision-making is critical. The thing that is hardest to measure is the intangible effect you have on the offense in the game.... At the end of the day does the rest of the team believe 'You're our guy.'"

Ultimately, a team's best option at quarterback may not be the guy with the most talent but the guy who brings out the most talent in those around him.

Dooley explained it this way: "I've seen where the coaches all say, 'That's the guy. He's more talented.' Then, in the game, the chains aren't moving. So you have no choice but to put in the other guy, who you think stinks. All of a sudden the runner breaks three tackles and gets 30 yards, the receiver jumps up one-handed and eats peanuts off the head of the corner and it's touchdown. So you're going, 'Why didn't he do it for the other guy?'

"That's the human element that is so hard to measure."

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