Last month, but not a month ago, Butch Jones was stung. He took the decision personally.
The players' coach, the one who somehow keeps his team's pulse, battles for player-driven items like the 'Smokey Gray' uniforms but operates with old-school discipline straight from his roots, 13 days ago basically accepted that Riley Ferguson would leave his Tennessee program.
That Ferguson would opt to never play a down of football for the Vols rather than compete, as Ferguson had adequately done throughout spring, for the starting quarterback job. On May 27, Jones confirmed first to VolQuest.com that he didn't expect Ferguson to rejoin the Tennessee team later that week for the onset of summer classes and conditioning.
Jones, who throughout stops of the Big Orange Caravan in May eschewed most talk of SEC future schedules and whether the league should play a nine-game slate, wanted a singular focus on his second autumn on Rocky Top. Until Ferguson didn't return, and Jones opened SEC meetings suddenly in desperate need for a potential cornerstone quarterback for his program's future.
Monday night, less than two weeks after Jones both expressed confidence in his QB depth chart for the current horizon --- Justin Worley and Josh Dobbs, particularly, deserve credit for going above and beyond in their preparations for the '14 campaign --- and concern for his program's future at the offense's nerve center, Jones got his man. Quinten Dormady, with prototypical size and roots from the epicenter of quarterback production, chose Tennessee.
That Dormady picked the Vols can't be discounted; that he picked them over current SEC kingpin Alabama and three other programs with very recent Bowl Championship Series appearances --- in-state programs TCU and Baylor; relatively nearby Oklahoma State --- only further shows that Jones also took this matter personally.
A hands-on recruiter who has sent Mother's Day cards, handwritten notes and myriad other personal touches during his first 18-plus months on Rocky Top, Jones vowed to those around the Tennessee program that the Vols would land a quarterback for their future; not just any signal-caller but one with which they could potentially build.
Dormady might have been a bit unknown a relatively short time ago, but he also might have been a top-100 prospect had a torn labrum not robbed him of his junior season. That's not speculation; those are the words of two different football experts who have worked with multiple NFL prospects. So, yeah, Dormady has worlds of potential, and Rivals probably needs to reevaluate him sooner than later.
Still, those are semantics. Tennessee's coaches believe Dormady fits their program; it's why the cerebral Mike Bajakian logged time with Dormady in late spring. Had the Vols' offensive coordinator, and Tennessee's recruiting office, not combed the country in their diligence, chances are Dormady wouldn't have told Austin Price Monday night how much Tennessee's recruiting pitch resonated with him; what he gleaned from some one-on-one time last weekend with former Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden.
Now, the Vols have another linchpin in their 2015 class in Dormady. Quarterbacks can recruit; plenty of UT's '15 commitments already are college-level peer recruiters. Jack Jones was working Dormady Monday night, both via phone and Twitter.
It's a step toward some much-needed momentum; the Vols, of course, could use a little more. Which Jones understands. After all, he takes these matters personally.