KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley will get a chance to provide senior leadership to one of the youngest offenses in the Southeastern Conference.
Volunteers coach Butch Jones announced Thursday that Worley would start the Aug. 31 season opener against Utah State. Sophomores Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs continue to compete for the right to serve as Worley's main backup.
"I was hoping that he would lean my way," Worley said. "Now I've just got to take the opportunity and run with it."
Although each of the three quarterbacks started at least one game last season, Worley was the most experienced contender. That experience could prove essential as Tennessee replaces all of last year's starters on the offensive line and relies heavily on newcomers in the backfield and receiving corps.
"Justin's played in big-time games," Jones said. "He understands the environment. He's one of the most experienced returning quarterbacks in the SEC, and we're going to need that with a very, very young football team."
Worley started seven games last season before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right thumb. He completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Dobbs started the final four games after Worley got hurt last year. Peterman started ahead of Worley and struggled in a 31-17 loss to Florida before a broken hand knocked him out for the rest of the season.
Worley believes he's more consistent this year and has a better grasp of the offense. After deferring to Tennessee's senior-laden offensive line last season, Worley says he has worked to become a better leader this year.
"I was a little timid last year, I'll tell you that," said Worley, who has 10 career starts. "I think Coach Jones will tell you that too. I was a little timid, didn't really take things and run with it. But this year, I've done a good job of getting the guys' respect and leading the offense."
Jones challenged his quarterbacks last week by saying the Vols weren't playing "winning football" at that position. Jones has offered more praise for all the quarterbacks lately and said Thursday that Worley "is playing the best football that he's played in a long time."
Continue reading this story on the...