Under center on Rocky Top: Ranking every Tennessee quarterback in the 21st century
Ask most Tennessee fans, and they’ll tell you the 21st century hasn’t been good to the Volunteers.
The once-proud program hasn’t produced a double-digit-win season or played for an SEC title since 2007. One of many reasons: volatile quarterback play.
In an attempt to encompass both the highs and the lows, we’ve ranked the 12 Tennessee quarterback to throw 100 or more passes since 2000.
12. Nick Stephens, 2008-09
Stephens straddled the Phillip Fulmer and Lane Kiffin eras, eventually transferring to Tarleton State when the latter demoted him to second string behind Jonathan Crompton. In 10 appearances, Stephens completed just 50% of his throws and tossed almost as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns (5).
11. A.J. Suggs, 2000
Suggs spent just a year in Knoxville before transferring to Georgia Tech. He appeared in 7 games, throwing for 785 yards and 5 touchdowns.
10. Quinten Dormady, 2015-17
Dormady’s been all over the map as a college quarterback — kind of like his accuracy at Tennessee. After transferring to Houston, he finally found a home at Central Michigan in 2019, throwing for over 2,300 yards. As a Vol, he threw for 1,282 yards and 7 TDs in parts of 3 seasons.
9. Matt Simms, 2010-11
The son of Phil Simms and younger brother of Chris transferred to Tennessee after spending his freshman year at Louisville and sophomore season at El Camino College in Torrance, California. He was benched for Tyler Bray midway through the 2010 season and never regained the starting role. His finished with 1,779 yards and 8 TDs.
8. Rick Clausen, 2004-05
The younger brother of Casey joined Tennessee as a walk-on after spending his freshman campaign at LSU. Rick Clausen shared time with Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer, finishing his career with 2,390 yards passing and 14 touchdowns. (Schaeffer didn’t play enough to qualify for Tennessee’s list, but he ranked No. 16 on Ole Miss’.)
7. Justin Worley, 2011-14
After spending his first 2 years backing up Bray, Worley served as Butch Jones’ first starting quarterback at Rocky Top. The results were mixed: 3,500 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and a combined 12-13 record for Tennessee from 2013-14.
6. Jonathan Crompton, 2005-09
It took Crompton almost 5 years to find his footing at Tennessee. He began the 2008 season as the starter but was benched; Fulmer was shown the door following the season. With a vote of confidence from Kiffin, Crompton passed for 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns as a redshirt senior.
5. Jarrett Guarantano, 2016-
The Lodi, New Jersey native already ranks 5th among these Tennessee quarterbacks in aerial yardage (5,062) and 6th in TD tosses (32) heading into his redshirt senior year. His QB rating is 3rd. Volunteers fans are counting on him if their squad is to make any noise in the SEC East this year.
4. Tyler Bray, 2010-12
Bray’s decision to leave college a year early backfired when he went undrafted in 2013. But his talent at Tennessee was undeniable: 7,400 yards, 69 touchdowns and a 145.0 passer rating.
3. Joshua Dobbs, 2013-16
From the moment he arrived on campus, Dobbs’ potential was off the charts. He made good on it, particularly as the full-time starter his final 2 seasons for Butch Jones. The current Steelers backup passed for over 7,100 yards and ran for more than 2,100 more during his four-year college tenure. He combined for 87 TDs (53 passing, 32 running, 2 receiving). His 9,936 total yards rank 2nd in program history behind Peyton Manning (11,020).
2. Erik Ainge, 2004-07
Tennessee has had 4 10-win seasons this century; Ainge was under center for 2 of them, including the 2007 Vols who won the SEC East. The son of Danny Ainge threw for 8,700 yards and 72 TDs before a brief NFL stint cut short by injuries and NFL violations. Erik Ainge hosts a daily sports talk show in Knoxville these days.
1. Casey Clausen, 2000-03
Today a head high school coach in California, Clausen’s always been a leader. His 9,707 yards passing and 75 TD passes both rank 2nd in program history behind Peyton Manning.