The Vols have hope at quarterback but virtually no experience. Matt Simms threw just 10 passes as a freshman at Louisville in 2008 (completing 4 for 39 yards), then spent 2009 at junior college. The only other scholarship quarterbacks are mid-term freshman Tyler Bray and incoming freshman Nash Nance - neither of whom has taken a snap in a college game.
Still, there is reason for some optimism. Simms, the son of former NFL standout Phil Simms, excelled at the Peyton and Eli Manning Quarterback Camp earlier this summer. Bray has a big-league arm and a big-time reputation. Nance posted some very impressive stats in his final high school season. So, Dooley figures not knowing what to expect isn't the worst-case scenario.
"When you're laying there all summer and you know exactly what you have - and you know it's not good enough - that's a real problem," the coach said, flashing a smug grin.
All joking aside, Dooley concedes that Tennessee's glaring lack of experience at QB is a concern.
"I don't think any coach goes into the season with a quarterback who has taken zero snaps thinking we're OK at that position," he said. "Even if you've had him three years in the program and you know he's going to be great, you REALLY never know until he gets out there (in a real game)."
Simms and Bray finished spring practice 1-2 on the depth chart. Each will get thousands of practice repetitions in the weeks ahead.
"Our practice is structured so that they're both going to get plenty of reps," Dooley said. "Right now Matt's with the 1s and Tyler's with the 2s. That doesn't mean there aren't a lot of drills where Tyler's throwing to the 1 receivers and Matt's throwing to the 2s."
Many observers figured Nance would redshirt in 2010 but that may no longer be an option. With sophomore Nick Lamaison leaving the program, Nance must be ready to serve as the No. 3 quarterback. That now becomes an urgent priority.
"It's important," Dooley said. "You're seeing it across the league. It's amazing. We're so quick to want to leave when things aren't working or 'I'm not going to play.'
"It's almost becoming an epidemic. A lot of programs in our league are having the same issue: You don't have depth at quarterback because everybody wants to be the starter."