KNOXVILLE – Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Peterman broke his hand in Saturday’s game against Florida and will miss at least four weeks, coach Butch Jones announced on Monday.
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound quarterback earned his first career start against the Gators, but struggled to protect the football. He was involved in two fumbles on the first five snaps of the game. He also threw two interceptions. In total, Peterman only completed four of 11 passes for 5 yards in the 31-17 loss in Gainesville.
The medical staff couldn’t pinpoint the exact play that the injury occurred. It’s possible that Peterman played at least some of the first half on Saturday with the injury. But now the Vols will likely return to Justin Worley, who started the first three games and came in for Peterman late in the first half.
Jones said it’s Worley’s job “as of now,” though the Vols do have two true freshmen, Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs, who are pushing for playing time as well.
Worley did have a better effort in the second half on Saturday, completing 10-of-23 passes for one touchdown and two interceptions. Jones doesn’t think he’ll have a hard time recovering his confidence after being benched in Week 3.
“He understands,” Jones said of Worley. “I thought he took some strides in the second half. Our quarterbacks can’t make catastrophic mistakes. They have to eliminate catastrophic plays. Sometimes a punt is the only play. I did think he took some steps moving forward on Saturday.”
Added senior offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James: “I felt like he did well. He remained the same Justin. Even when he wasn’t playing, he was still encouraging us and then he got in the game, I thought he did well.”
Peterman, meanwhile, has a physical and mental recovery ahead of him after his tough debut. Only a redshirt freshman, he figures to factor in quarterback battles of the future at Tennessee.
James, who started as a freshman himself in 2010, had some advice for Peterman after the game.
“Don’t let one game define you,” he said. “You’re going to get a lot of criticism from the media, but keep your head up and be ready when your opportunity comes.”
Jones responds to Arian Foster’s comments: Over the weekend, former Tennessee running back Arian Foster admitted to accepting money during his time at Tennessee (2005-08) in a preview of an upcoming documentary about amateurism and the NCAA.
Jones addressed the issue on Monday.
“We have not spoken yet,” he said. “All I can speak of is our current situation.”
He went on to tout UT’s current compliance efforts and vowed that the program will be committed to preventing NCAA violations while he is the head coach.
Foster, now one of the top running backs in the NFL, was a guest of honor for UT’s spring game this past April.
Injury update: Outside of Peterman, it appears there were no new significant injuries Saturday. Jones did say it is unlikely that linebacker Curt Maggitt (ACL) will play against South Alabama this week.
Maggitt, who was expected to return a few weeks ago, has been evaluated on a week-to-week basis. Jones didn’t rule out the possibility of the junior taking a redshirt season this year, but said they will continue to evaluate him.
TV update: The Vols will play South Alabama at 12:21 p.m. ET this Saturday on the SEC Network. The following game against Georgia on Oct. 5 will either be at 3:30 p.m., on CBS or a 7:00 p.m. start on one of the ESPN family of networks.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanielNooga