KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley wasn't particularly surprised to learn he would start Saturday's season opener against Austin Peay.
But he did acknowledge feeling relieved.
Worley, the only quarterback on Tennessee's roster with any college playing experience, learned he had won the starting job Sunday night when coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian met individually with the four contenders. Jones formally announced Worley as the starter at his Monday afternoon news conference.
"Just knowing officially that I'm the starter, there is a sense of relief," Worley said. "It's an honor and privilege to play quarterback here."
Worley, a junior from Rock Hill, S.C., was competing with redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman and freshmen Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs. Peterman is listed as the second-team quarterback on the depth chart. Jones said he ideally would like to redshirt one of the two freshmen, but he didn't say whether one was ahead of the other.
Jones said Worley's experience and ability to take care of the football gave him a slight edge. Worley started three games in place of an injured Tyler Bray in 2011. Worley now must try to replace Bray, who threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns last season.
"It was a very, very tight race," Jones said. "I thought all four individuals did a great job. I think they all really advanced their growth and development throughout the course of training camp, but we just thought Justin was just a little bit ahead of the other three individuals."
Worley is 63 of 110 for 738 yards with five interceptions and one touchdown pass in nine career games. His experience could prove beneficial as he tries throwing to inexperienced receivers who must replace first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson and second-round selection Justin Hunter.
How long Worley hangs on to the job remains uncertain.
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