Tennessee hall of famer Phillip Fulmer weighs in on potential 2-quarterback system
GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Tennessee football hall of famer Phillip Fulmer has complete confidence current Vols coach Butch Jones knows how to handle his quarterback situation.
Fulmer, conducting his youth camp at Rocky Top Sports World last week, spoke exclusively with SEC Country about Tennessee’s ongoing quarterbacks battle.
“Butch will handle that fine,” said Fulmer, a confidant of Jones. “You’ve got a guy that can throw it and seems more consistent (Quinten Dormady), and another guy that is very talented and can throw it, too (Jarrett Guarantano).”
Fulmer’s synopsis is in line with what fans at the Orange and White Game witnessed in April, when Dormady was 10-for-10 passing for 120 yards and 2 TDs, while Guarantano was 4-of-5 passing for 41 yards.
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Tennessee quarterbacks coach Mike Canales said during spring drills that the Vols have not ruled out using two quarterbacks, fueling speculation Jones could built a package for the fleet-footed Guarantano.
Whoever lines up under center in the opener will be making is first start.
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Fulmer did much the same in 2004 when the Vols won the SEC East Division riding the arms of two freshmen quarterbacks early before turning the offense over to junior Rick Clausen.
“We played two because they were so different, and they gave us two different dynamics and made the defense work,” Fulmer said, referring to then-freshmen Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer. “We’d put Schaeffer in the game, and then Erik at quarterback, and they’ve call the wrong defense for Erik.
“So you can do it, but it’s not easy.”
No doubt, Schaeffer ended up transferring and the quarterback competition between Ainge and Clausen the following spring split the team and led to a 5-6 season.
“It (two-quarterback system) is probably not preferable, to be honest,” Fulmer said. “But that (2004 season) was one of the years we made it work.”
Ainge led the 2004 SEC East Division champion Vols with 1,452 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury the ninth game of the season against Notre Dame.
Schaeffer, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the eighth game of the season against South Carolina, passed for 302 yards and rushed for 66.
Clausen took over the team for the final four games of the season, going 3-1 with a 38-28 loss to Auburn in the SEC title game before winning MVP honors in a 38-7 Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M.
Tennessee, which has only three scholarship quarterbacks entering this season, opens the 2017 campaign on Sept. 4 in Atlanta against Georgia Tech in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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