KNOXVILLE – This past weekend wasn’t the storybook ending quarterback Nathan Peterman was hoping for.
Odds are, the story isn’t over, though.
After taking a redshirt season in 2012, Peterman was thrust into the starting quarterback competition for 2013 when Tyler Bray opted to leave school early and Butch Jones was hired at Tennessee.
Heavily recruited by Jones and his staff at Cincinnati, Peterman was thought to be a great fit for Jones’ system in Knoxville. Despite his disadvantage in playing experience, his mobility and strong arm mirrored some of Jones’ past quarterbacks at Cincinnati and Central Michigan.
But his hope of being named the starter for the beginning of the 2013 campaign ended this weekend when Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian met with him to tell him that it would be junior Justin Worley leading the offense on Saturday.
“It was definitely a disappointment,” Peterman said. “There were high expectations. I have high expectations for myself, and still a dream of mine and a goal of mine. I feel it’s a reachable goal. So, there’s definitely disappointment, but at the same time I couldn’t stay down too long, and I had to get up and get ready for the next day of practice.”
Perhaps it’s a small consolation prize, but Peterman is listed as the backup for Saturday’s opener again Austin Peay, beating out true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Recent history shows that Peterman should stay ready for anything.
The Vols have used multiple starters in three of the past five years for various reasons. Three different starters were used in 2011. The last time the season began with a significant quarterback battle (2010), there was a switch from the opening-day starter, Matt Simms, to freshman Tyler Bray.
Half the SEC – Ole Miss, Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina – either started multiple quarterbacks or regularly used a second quarterback in 2012.
Jones has shown he’s not afraid to make a switch as well. Despite a 6-2 record in 2012, the Bearcats benched starter Munchie Lagaux in favor of Brandon Kay. Cincinnati went on to win four of its last five games behind Kay.
“I feel like I’ve reacted as best I could,” said Peterman. “I’m really just trying to give my best, approach every day like I am the starter, and that’s what you got to do, and just trying to do that and be consistent.
“These things are never set in stone of how it’s going to go. So, football is a crazy game. You never know how it’s going to go. I’m going to be ready regardless.”
Jones said Peterman was the first one in the film room on Monday morning after hearing the news and Peterman said it was another early morning for him Tuesday. That’s the kind of attitude Jones wants to see from his quarterbacks, starter or not, and it’s what might lead Peterman to a future chance at starting, whether that be in 2013 or beyond.
“It was business as usual with Nate Peterman,” Jones said “He is mentally tough, has the desire, the work ethic. He’s very consistent.”
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga