March 8, 2013
Jones, Bajakian ready for QB battle
There's no greater debate for fans than a quarterback battle. And as head coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian met the media on Friday to kickoff spring practice, it was quarterback that dominated the talk.
"It'll be an ongoing process, one through 15 and then into the summer months," Jones said of his quarterback competition. "It'll probably be a week into spring football until I can give you a better idea of where we are right now, but I've been encouraged by everything I've seen out of our quarterbacks."
Bajakian, like Jones, has been pleased with what he has seen from both Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman over the winter from a commitment and work standpoint.
"They have done a great job. In the meeting rooms, they are very intelligent," Bajakian offered. "They are very hard working. They have attacked what we have been able to do together whether it's our skill development sessions on the field, in the meeting room or in the weight room. I have seen their bodies change. They have the mentality that we are looking for."
What Bajakian doesn't know is how well the quarterbacks really throw the football. It's why Saturday morning can't get here fast enough. His offseason work with the pair, per NCAA rules, could not involve the use of actual footballs.
"I don't think I can verbalize that," Bajakian said. "It's funny we have been doing skill development for a couple of months now. For running back there is a skill set they can work on. For receivers they can run routes. For offensive linemen they can work on their pass sets. Quarterbacks, if you don't have a football in your hands you are spending a lot of time on drop technique and mental drills. Just to have a football in their hands and see them throw really for the first time, I can't tell you how excited I am to see what we have to work with."
The junior Worley, who was one of three Vols to meet the media on Friday, said he was excited for the opportunity to win the job and the Rock Hill, S. C., native believes the system fits him well.
"Coach Jake has been talking about fast and furious in everything we've done. Coach Lawson has as well. It's not going to be a sling it all over the place kind of offense. There's a lot of pressure on our run game as well. It fits me. I ran a spread in high school as well, but this is a different kind of spread."
Worley, who has appeared in 9 games including 3 starters, feels his experience is an assest for him heading into the spring battle, but he doesn't think gives him an edge.
"I don't know if there's a leg up," Worley offered. "Coach Jones has come in saying there's no depth chart. Nobody's job is safe right now. So I wouldn't say there's a leg up, but definitely having the little bit of experience that I've gotten, it helps with my confidence a little bit."
For Bajakian, who's entering his 6th season as Jones' offensive coordinator, throwing the football is priority one. Jones' offense has oftentimes had a quarterback who can make plays with his feet. But not always, Bajakian has had quarterbacks who had negative yards rushing in a year and he has had quarterbacks who have been 1,000-yard rushers. But the feet of the quarterback is not the priority in determining who will be the starter this fall.
"The reality of the position is that first and foremost they need to be able to throw the football. What we put on their plate in the pass game is the most important thing. That's where we start. More than anything they need to be able to manage the offense like coach Jones talked about, put the ball in the hands of the playmakers we have identified and complete the football. The ability with the ball in their hands that's secondary. We have been able to be successful with different quarterbacks of different abilities, but they have to be able to throw the football around."
Something Bajakian is anxious to see come Saturday morning.
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