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VOL. 41 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 4, 2017

2 quarterbacks seldom better than 1

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Butch Jones won’t tip his hand, but many see Quinten Dormady emerging as the Vols’ starter.

-- Austin Perryman/Tennessee Athletics/Utsports.Com

The old adage holds that if you have two quarterbacks you really have none.

Are you listening, Butch Jones?

Jones continues to send signals that Tennessee may proceed with a plan to use both junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano in the opener against Georgia Tech. If the two-quarterback system is successful, the Vols could continue to play both in subsequent games.

“If both players earn the right to play, we’ll play both quarterbacks,” Jones said at the recent SEC Media Days.

It’s a risk. Generally speaking, it’s better to settle on a starter during preseason camp and let him handle all meaningful snaps. Otherwise, neither quarterback can settle into a rhythm without fear of being pulled if he throws an interception or makes another mistake.

Just the same, a two-quarterback system is an intriguing possibility, especially when you consider the different skills sets of the players. Each could challenge the defense in a different way.

Although he has had few opportunities to show it in two years of backing up Joshua Dobbs, Dormady possesses a big-time arm. Many in the media who viewed portions of practice over the last two seasons say Dormady threw a better ball than Dobbs. On top of that, Jones warns fans and media not to undersell Dormady’s athletic ability.

As for Guarantano, he has much better mobility, as well as a strong arm. He is especially good at throwing on the move. His threat as a runner fits well into Jones’ offense. Remember all the big plays Dobbs made when he kept the ball on the zone read?

Using both quarterbacks in a game would put pressure on the opposing defensive coordinator to prepare for two different offensive schemes. On one series, you’re facing a drop-back passing game. On the next series, you might be defending the zone read.

There is a downside, of course. Against Dormady, the defense could load up to rush the quarterback. Against Guarantano, the defense could worry less about pass coverage and protect the flanks.

Most coaches steer clear of playing two quarterbacks in a game. But when Steve Spurrier once alternated quarterbacks after every offensive play when coaching at Florida.

Urban Meyer found a way to use both Chris Leak and Tim Tebow on his way to a national championship at Florida in 2006. Northwestern had success platooning Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian a few years ago.

There are other examples of coaches alternating quarterbacks in a given game. Historically, though, UT has steered clear of a two-quarterback system with the coaching staff settling on a starter and sticking with him. But there have been exceptions.

In 2004, everything appeared set up for C.J. Leak, a sixth-year senior who had transferred to UT from Wake Forest, to handle the quarterback spot. But Leak failed to impress in a key preseason scrimmage, and coach Phillip Fulmer decided to go with a pair of freshmen – Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge.

Schaeffer became the first true freshman to start for an SEC team in the season opener since freshman eligibility was restored in 1973. Ainge also played extensively in that game.

The different skills of each allowed UT to play mix and match offensively. Schaeffer was a decent passer who was incredibly quick on his feet. Ainge was a classic pocket passer. The Vols ran different sets of plays for each.

The two split the snaps until Schaeffer suffered a broken collarbone. Ainge blossomed as a full-time starter that season. When Schaeffer encountered off-field problems, he was encouraged to look elsewhere. He spent a season in junior college ball at College of the Sequoias in California and then transferred to Ole Miss.

Sometimes a coaching staff goes out of its way in an attempt to keep more than one quarterback happy. Back in 1994, UT began the season with a fifth-year senior, Jerry Colquitt, as the starter and junior Todd Helton as his backup. Also on the roster were two prized freshmen – Peyton Manning and Branndon Stewart.

Colquitt’s season ended on the seventh play of the opener at UCLA when he suffered a major knee injury. Helton took over and lasted until three weeks later when he also injured a knee.

That left the job in the hands of Manning and Stewart.

Although Manning wound up as the starter, Fulmer and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe made sure Stewart got into every game.

Fulmer and Cutcliffe denied it at the time, but it was clear they were hoping to keep Stewart relatively happy and perhaps dissuade him from looking elsewhere. That’s how much they thought of Stewart’s potential.

Although Stewart wound up matching Manning’s completion percentage as a freshman (both checked in at 61.8 percent) and was much more mobile, it was clear that the job belonged to Manning.

A few weeks after Manning was named MVP of the Vols’ Gator Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, Stewart announced he was transferring and landed at Texas A&M.

As for the current situation at UT, a two-quarterback plan makes a degree of sense unless either Dormady or Guarantano rise to the top during preseason camp.

How close is the quarterback race? Jones will tell you it’s pretty much a dead heat. Others believe Dormady is slightly ahead.

Even the on-line gambling world has gotten in on the act. The gaming site Bookmaker.eu lists Dormady as a slight favorite to emerge as the Vols’ Game 1 starter.

The wildcard in this is first-year offensive coordinator Larry Scott. Nobody really knows what his system will look like when the Vols face Georgia Tech. If he leans more toward the passing game, Dormady likely is his man. If he’s looking for a running threat at quarterback, it’ll be Guarantano.

And if he’s looking for a little of both, it could be a two-quarterback system. This could get interesting.

Reach David Climer at dclimer1018@yahoo.com and on Twitter @DavidClimer.

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