Vol QB outlook:

EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece kicks off a series of articles analyzing Tennessee's strengths and weaknesses at each offensive and defensive position. Today's position: Quarterback.

Except for Erik Ainge's senior season of 2007, Tennessee's quarterback picture has been muddled for much of the decade. Based on the early returns, this year projects to be no different.

First, a little history lesson:

- In 2004 the Vols divided the job among Brent Schaeffer (3 starts), Ainge (6 starts) and Rick Clausen (4 starts).

- In 2005 the Vols platooned Ainge (5 starts) and Clausen (6 starts).

- In 2006 the Vols settled on Ainge (12 starts), although Jonathan Crompton started one game and played the final three quarters of another due an Ainge ankle injury.

- In 2008 the Vols couldn't decide between Crompton (6 starts) and Nick Stephens (6 starts).

- In 2009 the Vols gave Crompton all 13 starts, even though many fans clamored for Stephens during the first half of the season.

That brings us to 2010 and another quarterback quandary.

Stephens' inability to lock up the top job during spring practice led him to drop off the team and announce plans to transfer. That leaves Tennessee with virtually no experience at the game's most critical position.

Junior Matt Simms threw just 10 passes at Louisville in 2008 (completing 4) before spending 2009 at junior college. He ascended to the No. 1 job midway through spring practice but struggled in game-type situations.

Simms completed 6 of 20 passes for 83 yards in the first full-scale scrimmage and 8 of 25 for 110 yards in the second. He closed out his spring by completing 12 of 26 passes for 125 yards in the Orange & White Game but threw three interceptions.

Simms' totals for the three spring scrimmages show him 26 of 71 (36.6 percent) for 318 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.

Coming up fast on the outside is mid-term freshman Tyler Bray. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 69 yards in the first scrimmage, 10 of 19 for 86 yards in the second and 18 of 40 for 200 yards in the Orange & White Game.

Bray's cumulative stats for the three major scrimmages show him completing 36 of 72 passes (50.0 percent) for 355 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. It should be noted, however, that he posted his stats against mostly second-team defenders.

Sophomore Nick Lamaison, a juco transfer who redshirted in 2009, threw 4 passes in Scrimmage No. 2, completing 2 of them for 34 yards with one interception.

Joining the cast in August will be Nash Nance, who completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 3,017 yards and 29 touchdowns last fall at Calhoun (Ga.) High School.

Simms looms as the likely starter because of maturity and the fact he has some experience beyond the high school level. Bray has a livelier arm, however, and reportedly came a long way during spring practice.

Lamaison provides insurance at the QB position, meaning Nance probably will redshirt this fall unless he proves to be one of those rare youngsters with the physical and mental maturity to make the jump from high school to college ball during three weeks of fall camp.

Position outlook: Shaky.


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