Last year when Brian Maurer got his first career start against Georgia, we ran the numbers on Tennessee’s midseason replacement quarterbacks in their first start. These are the guys that, for reasons good and bad, didn’t win the job in fall camp, but took over at some point during the season.
It’s interesting how many quarterbacks get their first start this way, whether that’s through injury, youth movement, or just poor play from the incumbent. In the last 30 years, I believe only Heath Shuler, Jerry Colquitt, Tee Martin, Joey Mathews, Brent Schaeffer, Matt Simms, and Quinten Dormady made their first start at Tennessee in a season opener.
When you go to the backup mid-year, it typically means some other things are going wrong too, and your starter can’t just manage the game and still win. And at Tennessee, there certainly isn’t an abundance of great football in the last decade-plus. But one thing we noted in the piece last year already changed with Maurer: the first starts for Guarantano, Dobbs, Peterman, and Worley produced zero offensive touchdowns. Maurer came out firing with a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, and the Vols were still in that game late in the third quarter. Georgia led 29-14 but the Vols had 1st-and-10 at midfield when Maurer threw an interception; Tennessee actually stopped Georgia on 4th-and-1 on the next drive, giving the Vols another first down at midfield. But a false start and a sack ended that threat, and Georgia added two scores in the fourth quarter.
So: you can be feisty with the new guy against elite competition, and Jim Chaney was of course at the trigger for that game. Victory, of course, is much harder to come by:
(If the table looks strange, rotate your phone)
Midseason Replacement QBs, First Start:
|Maurer||#3 Georgia||14||28||259||2||1||L 43-14|
|Guarantano||S. Carolina||11||18||133||0||0||L 15-9|
|Dobbs||#9 Missouri||26||42||240||0||2||L 31-3|
|Peterman||#19 Florida||4||11||5||0||2||L 31-17|
|Worley||#13 S. Carolina||10||26||105||0||2||L 14-3|
|Stephens||#10 Georgia||13||30||208||2||0||L 26-14|
|Crompton||#11 Arkansas||16||34||174||2||1||L 31-14|
|R. Clausen||Vanderbilt||19||30||189||2||2||W 38-33|
|Ainge||#8 Auburn||17||35||173||1||4||L 34-10|
If it’s indeed Harrison Bailey on Saturday, he certainly won’t be the first Vol QB to get his first action against a Top 10 foe. And perhaps the up-tempo nature of the game in 2020 will give him additional opportunities to flourish. But victory – unless you’re playing our in-state friends from Nashville or Memphis – is a big ask.
Some of these guys obviously went on to excellent careers. Erik Ainge and Josh Dobbs, in particular, overcame some frustrating freshman performances to be two of the best we’ve seen at the position in Knoxville. So don’t judge Bailey too much on the first impression, especially when it comes in the middle of the year.
(…unless he’s great. Then lean all the way into it.)