KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee junior Quinten Dormady waited two years behind Josh Dobbs before becoming the Vols starting quarterback for the first five games this season.
A change on the depth chart isn’t going to chase off Dormady — at least not yet — as the 6-foot-4, 222-pound Texan was back at practice Tuesday afternoon.
Tennessee elevated redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano to the top of the depth chart this week, and it appears the New Jersey product is in line to make his first career start Saturday against South Carolina.
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Vols coach Butch Jones might feel that he needs to make a change after Dormady struggled the past three games. Dormady threw 3 interceptions against Florida, failed to generate a touchdown drive in the second half of a 17-13 win over UMass, and was behind center in the 41-0 loss to Georgia.
Jones declared all starting positions open during the bye week and split the first-team QB repetitions evenly between Guarantano and Dormady.
Vols offensive coordinator Larry Scott made it clear Monday night that a quarterback change could be coming.
“You’ve got to have a guy that can demonstrate a certain level of consistency, and it has to be continuous consistency — it can’t be this drive here, that drive there, and off here and off there,” Scott said. “I talk to them all the time about, ‘Don’t go play quarterback, be the quarterback.’ With that is a process, and what we need is somebody to take the next step in that process and really start to be a quarterback.”
A source told SEC Country on Tuesday that Guarantano was elevated to the top of the depth chart. That move triggered speculation and unsubstantiated reports and rumors that Dormady had quit the team.
Things can change quickly in college football, indeed.
Dormady opened the season by rallying the Vols from a 28-14 deficit in the fourth quarter to a 42-41 double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But against Florida two weeks later, Dormady had issues stepping up in the pocket against the rush, and the first of his 3 interceptions was the result of throwing off his back foot.
Dormady later made the costly mistake of calling an audible from the 1-yard line, checking off to a pass that was nearly intercepted. A motion penalty moved the team back 5 yards, and Dormady threw an interception when he and freshman receiver Josh Palmer got their wires crossed on an option route.
Dormady’s soft-spoken nature appeared to work against him from that point forward, and he was unable to get the offense to rally around him. That was an issue Tennessee coaches had been working with Dormady on since last spring.
In fairness to Dormady, it has been a less-than-ideal situation for a new quarterback. Tennessee has a very inexperienced receiving corps, along with a new offensive coordinator and tweaked playbook.
Josh Malone, last season’s leading receiver, declared himself eligible for the NFL draft last spring rather than return for his senior season. Junior receiver Jauan Jennings, the Vols’ most experienced and productive skill-position player, suffered what appeared to be a season-ending wrist injury in the season opener.
Senior receiver Josh Smith missed much of spring drills recovering from offseason hernia surgery, and sophomore receiver Tyler Byrd has been inconsistent and missed a game with an undisclosed injury.
Dormady was accountable for his performance after the 41-0 loss to Georgia, saying he had “errant throws” en route to the 5-of-16 passing performance that netted 64 yards with 2 interceptions before he was lifted in favor of Guarantano.
Dormady is 76 of 137 passing (.555) for 925 yards with 6 TDs and 6 interceptions, and he has lost 3 fumbles. All eight of Dormady’s turnovers have occurred in the past four games.
If the switch to Guarantano does indeed take place, it could simply represent Jones believing that a more mobile quarterback who can extend plays is a better fit for the Vols. CBS commentator Gary Danielson suggested during the broadcast of the Georgia game that Jones might need to change quarterbacks to shake things up.