Much of the talk around spring practice has centered on Tennessee’s quarterbacks battle as Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano vie to replace Joshua Dobbs as the Volunteers’ signal-caller of the future.
But just as intriguing of a storyline as camp comes to a close is who the Vols will tab as the quarterback in their 2018 recruiting class.
After swinging and missing on Hunter Johnson and other high-profile targets a season ago, UT settled on Will McBride, who chose the Vols following a late offer after he was all set to enroll mid-term with Memphis.
There hasn’t been that much talk about McBride this spring, as expected, because he’s probably swimming in learning all the vernacular and nuances that come from studying playbooks and making calls for a college team. No matter how good you are in high school, that learning curve is sharp for the vast majority of players. McBride may wind up being a star, but his thin offer sheet and limited experience make that a huge question mark.
So, with UT coach Butch Jones wanting to take a quarterback each year and considering there was a gamble taken at recruiting the position in the ’17 class, that makes this year’s quarterback prospect an important undertaking. With the Orange & White Game set to commence tomorrow, Tennessee is expected to host a few of its targets at the position.
With new quarterbacks coach Mike Canales now calling the shots, the “big board” at the position has changed. Would UT love to get back in on former top targets and Georgia prospects Emory Jones (Ohio State commit) and Justin Fields (Penn State commit) and become major players for those two? Most likely. They’ve got elite ceilings as dual-threat quarterbacks with big arms and fast feet. But as far as uncommitted prospects go, this week has been big for Tennessee’s future recruiting the offensive leader.
After hosting 4-star California signal-caller Brevin White earlier this week—a visit that put the Vols “high on the list” for the pledge of the player, according to 247Sports’ Ryan Callahan—UT will host several other prospects at the position this weekend.
Perhaps the most lauded of the bunch is 4-star California Bears commitment Adrian Martinez, who may just be at the top of UT’s current board that includes uncommitted players. Martinez is blessed with great arm strength, and he isn’t a statue in the pocket, either. He has seemed to be feeling the Vols since they extended an offer, and though other teams such as Alabama have swooped in with offers since then, Martinez is making the cross-country trip from Cali to visit Knoxville this weekend. Most importantly for UT, he isn’t going anywhere else. That means he’s coming to SEC Country and only taking in the Neyland Stadium atmosphere.
Considering all the turnover the Bears coaching staff has experienced over the past year, that can’t be a bad development for UT.
Martinez isn’t the only gunslinger coming to Knoxville from the West, either. Fresh off getting an offer from the Georgia Bulldogs, 3-star quarterback Cammon Cooper (of Utah) is also going to be in Knoxville. He’s more of a traditional dropback passer, but that may not be such a unique development. Ever since Larry Scott took over as offensive coordinator and Canales joined the fray as UT’s quarterbacks coach, the Vols seem more interested in pro-style passers than they were with the previous regime.
The Vols reportedly practiced more under center this spring after running out of the shotgun the vast majority of the time during Dobbs’ tenure under former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. Does that signify a regime change? Not necessarily, especially if redshirt freshman Guarantano wins the job. But it also could prove that UT is going to be more diverse from a schematic standpoint under Scott, especially in short-yardage situations.
Still, if you want a dual-threat quarterback prospect to whet your appetite, Tennessee hosted several of them this spring, and the Vols are getting another visit this weekend from Michael Penix of Tampa Bay (Florida) Tech, who fits that mold. The 6’2″, 182-pounder is a player who 247Sports’ Crystal Ball believes will wind up in Knoxville. With Tennessee potentially taking two quarterbacks in this year’s class, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could pull the trigger for the Vols this weekend if he indeed is a take. He likes UT that much.
So, there hasn’t been that much movement on the recruiting front just yet, and everybody wants a quarterback around which to build your class. With so many prospects coming this weekend and with players at the position traditionally deciding to choose their schools early, could this be the weekend the Vols land a signal-caller for the 2018 class?
That remains to be seen. But it’s definitely something else to watch along with tomorrow’s Orange & White spring finale.