Justin Worley was injured and ineffective last week in a 45-10 loss to top-ranked Alabama, which leaves the junior’s status as Tennessee’s starting quarterback in question. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Monday that Worley was day to day after hurting his right thumb against Alabama.
Even if Worley’s healthy enough to play, Jones could take his time in determining who will start against Missouri. Freshman Joshua Dobbs showed flashes of potential Saturday and led Tennessee (4-4, 1-3 SEC) to all of its 10 points after entering the game in the second half.
“It could go all week,” Jones said. “I never put a time frame on anything. It’s how they develop. We’re going to play the individual who gives us the best opportunity to win on Saturday.”
Jones said the competition also could include redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman and freshman Riley Ferguson. Peterman had surgery on an injured right hand after going 4 of 11 for 5 yards with two interceptions Sept. 21 against Florida in his first career start, but he recently had his cast removed.
“There’s a possibility by the end of week he may be available as well, but you never know with the body and how it heals,” Jones said.
Whichever quarterback gets the call will face a major challenge. Missouri (7-1, 4-1 SEC) has picked off 15 passes this season and is tied for third among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in that category.
Worley has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions while starting seven of Tennessee’s eight games. He was 8 of 15 for 120 yards with two interceptions against Alabama and left at halftime with the Volunteers trailing 35-0.
Worley appeared to get his hand or thumb examined on the sideline during Tennessee’s 23-21 victory over No. 14 South Carolina a week earlier, though he never left the game. Worley wore gloves for part of last week’s practices, which Jones said was an attempt to get a better grip on the ball. Jones said Worley “banged it up again” in the Alabama game.
“Could he have gone back in at the time? Yes,” Jones said. “But we wanted to make sure that we tried to see what it was and not do anything to further injure” him.
Dobbs took over in the second half and was 5 of 12 for 75 yards. He also rushed for 19 yards on three carries and is more of a running threat than Worley.
Jones said Dobbs has a “photographic memory” and that the Vols didn’t have to scale back their playbook when the freshman was running the offense.
“For a young man and true freshman coming into that environment against that type of an opponent, I thought he was poised,” Jones said. “He was calm. He was disciplined. He was able to get us in the right plays offensively, and he had a command about himself.”
Jones said he would rather use only one quarterback Saturday, though he didn’t completely rule out the possibility of a two-quarterback system.
“I don’t like changing quarterbacks unless we have to,” Jones said. “I don’t like individuals looking over their shoulders and thinking that if they mess up one play, am I coming out? That messes with the overall rhythm of an offense. Whatever it takes to win football games, we are going to do.”
Orange Slices: Jones said he expects safeties Brian Randolph and Byron Moore to play Saturday after both were injured against Alabama. ... Jones said there’s still no update on the status of defensive tackle Maurice Couch, who has missed six games after being ruled ineligible since a Yahoo Sports report that he accepted improper benefits.