By Steve Williams
Tennessee fans know the Vols will have a new starting quarterback this fall and the battle between Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano is underway.
Head coach Butch Jones also has said Tennessee needs to become “a much more physical football team.”
When these two items are linked together, wouldn’t it make sense for the Vols to have a real Orange and White spring football game Saturday, April 22, instead of what they’ve had in recent years, which has been more of a show than a game.
Jones said last week that the Vols “cannot compromise our physicality” and need to become “a much more physical football team,” and they plan to emphasize “toughness” starting with their first spring practice.
Years ago, for its annual spring intra-squad game, Tennessee players would be divided up by the coaches to make two even teams. The Orange would play the White in an actual football game. Fans could choose a team to pull for, perhaps based on the one which consisted of their most favorite players.
Touchdowns would count six points and field goals three points and when the game was over, there actually was a score like 28-17.
Last year’s show, with its untraditional scoring system, ended with the defense beating the offense 70-63 in front of over 60,000 fans at Neyland Stadium.
A real Orange and White contest would provide a true game-like test in the QB battle between Dormady and Guarantano. Otherwise, their first real game action will come against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Some players perform better in games than they do in practice. Not long ago we saw that here at Tennessee. Reports came out that Josh Dobbs was sometimes awful in practice when he was a freshman, while Nathan Peterman was a standout on the practice field.
Based on that, Coach Jones rewarded Peterman with the starting nod over Justin Worley at Florida in 2013 and Peterman played like he had stage fright.
Florida was ripe for plucking that day in the Swamp, too. Jeff Driskel, the Gators’ starting quarterback, threw an interception and suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter. The Vols returned the pick for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. But nervous Nathan managed to throw for only five yards and had four turnovers in the first half. Butch finally benched him and Worley took over.
It was too late and the Vols probably would have won that game if Peterman hadn’t started.
The point here is Tennessee coaches need to know which of its quarterbacks can play in front of a crowd and in game-like conditions before the season begins and take advantage of a real intra-squad spring game to help them make that decision.
Like most coaches, Jones doesn’t want to take the chance of having injuries.
Several Tennessee players already are sitting out spring drills to recover from injuries or surgeries and the Vols are a little short on depth at a few positions, particularly in the defensive line. But injuries are part of the game and Tennessee still has enough players to divide up and play a real game.
It’s worth the risk. Besides, a football player can be injured anytime – in practice today or in the season opener at Georgia Tech.
You can’t let fear get in the way of picking your No. 1 quarterback or making Tennessee a much more physical football team.
The bonus is giving Tennessee football fans a real Orange and White game to see and enjoy and the Vols a real intra-squad game to play in and compete.
On Fan Appreciation Day, I believe the fans would appreciate that more than anything.