KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee interim head coach Brady Hoke side-stepped the questions when talk turned to the Vols’ quarterback situation at his Wednesday press conference.
True freshman Will McBride threw a touchdown pass at Missouri in his first career start and proved the most effective running quarterback Tennessee has put under center this season.
Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, while likely having a higher ceiling, a stronger arm and prototypical height, didn’t throw a TD pass in his first four starts.
Guarantano has not been as effective running the read option as McBride appeared to be in the loss at Missouri.
McBride enjoyed a strong first-half last Saturday, completing 10 of 17 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. McBride also led the Vols in rushing in the game, finishing with 63 net yards on 14 carries — including a 43-yard run.
Taking the 5 sacks out of his rushing total, McBride had nine carries for 61 yards.
Hoke said both McBride and Guarantano have been at practice this week, though he did not say to what extent Guarantano has healed from the ankle injury he suffered on a TD run against Southern Miss on Nov. 11.
When asked if there would be competition at quarterback, or if the Vols might play both QBs against LSU in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Neyland Stadium, Hoke talked about defensive ends.
“Number one we have a competitive situation at the defensive end position, there are three guys there that are pretty good football players,” Hoke said. “That’s the whole team, especially when we don’t have a full complement at some positions, but at the same time it’s got to be competitive .
“We’ll let this thing play out.”
Hoke said that offensive coordinator Larry Scott, who had previously called plays from the coaching box, will move to the sideline after making that request.
“Larry came up and asked me, ‘What do you think about me being on the sideline?’ He said he’d like to,” Hoke said. “I think Larry Scott is a very good football coach, and I think if it’s good for him to some degree, it will also be good for our players.”
Hoke said graduate assistant Nate Ollie would move down to the field from the box to work with the defensive line. Hoke is still the primary defensive line coach, but with head coaching duties he won’t be able to work with the linemen as much during games.
Coordinator Bob Shoop will continue to call the defensive plays and work from the box.
Hoke had said upon taking over as the interim head coach that he planned to “tweak” some things.
The Vols are doing more team and less individual drill work, along with more “ones on ones” in practice, Hoke indicated.
Hoke is, however, changing one of the staples from his previous head coaching stops at Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan.
“I will be wearing a headset,” Hoke said Wednesday, chucking when asked about it.
Hoke had previously said at Michigan that he felt a headset detracted from his ability to interact with players and coach them on the sideline.