Published October 25, 2011 - 8:50am
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Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley made quite a fashion statement at the beginning of the season by showcasing, what has now become a trademark of sorts, his bright orange slacks. Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, while Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) extended their lead to 37-6 over Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) in the fourth quarter, Dooley made a statement, but this time it wasn’t with his slacks.
For Dooley it probably seemed like deja vu all over again as quarterback Matt Simms, subbing for injured star-sophomore Tyler Bray, struggled to ignite the Big Orange offense. Dooley chose to light the fire himself by sending number 14 onto the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium and in turn, setting true-freshman Justin Worley’s red-shirt ablaze. This afternoon Dooley announced that Worley, from Rock Hill, will start this Saturday against his home-state South Carolina Gamecocks saying, “We just need to make this move.”
Simms, a senior, had a tough draw once Bray went down with a broken right thumb in the final minutes of the Georgia game as LSU and Alabama were lined up on the Tennessee schedule. In those two games, Simms completed just 14-of-37 pass attempts (38%) with no touchdown passes and his three interceptions surpassed the two that Bray threw in five starts. The Vols lost to LSU and Alabama by a combined score of 75-13 with Simms very much resembling the same quarterback from a year earlier. In 10 career starts for the Volunteers, Simms won just two and may very well best be remembered for his touchdown pass to Denarius Moore that beat UAB in double overtime last year in Knoxville.
Simms’ inability to consistently move the Tennessee offense and his propensity for hanging on to the ball far too long gave Dooley little choice in opting for the reigning Gatorade National Football Player of the Year and Parade High School All-American, Justin Worley, in the absence of Bray.
Tennessee has now lost three straight and will need to win at least three of their final five games to gain bowl eligibility. Dooley realizes the importance of winning now and his decision shows his unwillingness to sacrifice potential wins in 2011 for potential wins with Worley in a possible futuristic view of the 2015 season. In the SEC, no coach can hardly afford to look beyond the season at hand and if he makes decisions with a mentality to the contrary, his career will likely be cut short and the future unrealized. To paraphrase Dooley’s “Opportunity is NowHere” slogan, the future is now here.
Last season it was Bray who was suddenly thrust into the SEC limelight amid Simms’ struggles and the Vols responded by winning their last four regular season game and gaining a birth in the Music City Bowl. Worley is an unproven commodity at the college level but with five games remaining on the Tennessee schedule, Dooley is ready to roll the dice with the unproven rather than what has proven to be ineffective.
Worley, who at 6’5″ 200 lb. is similar in stature to Bray, was an early commit for Dooley in last years recruiting wars and led Northwestern High School to an undefeated 15-0 mark and the South Carolina Class 4A-II state title. Worley’s numbers were outstanding, throwing for 5,315 yards and 64 touchdowns while completing nearly 73 percent of his attempts during his senior campaign.
Worley joins Tennessee football legend Peyton Manning as the only two Tennessee players to receive the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year honor, which was founded in 1985.