Tennessee quarterback Nathan Peterman will miss at least four weeks after undergoing surgery on his right hand.
Peterman injured his hand Saturday while struggling through his first collegiate start in a 31-17 loss to No. 20 Florida. Peterman went 4 of 11 for 5 yards with two interceptions and one fumble before being replaced late in the first half by junior Justin Worley, who had started Tennessee’s first three games.
Peterman’s injury solidifies Worley’s status as Tennessee’s starting quarterback at least for now. Worley is atop Tennessee’s depth chart for Saturday’s game with South Alabama, while freshmen Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs are listed together on the second team.
”As of right now, Justin Worley is the starter,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said.
Jones said the Vols didn’t know exactly when Peterman got hurt during the game and added that the redshirt freshman’s removal wasn’t injury related. Jones said he would have a more definitive timetable for Peterman’s return later this week.
Worley went 10 of 23 for 149 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions after replacing Peterman at Florida. He has gone 45 of 80 for 521 yards with six touchdown passes and three interceptions this season.
Jones had reopened the quarterback competition last week after Tennessee’s 59-14 loss to No. 2 Oregon and said he would hand the job to whichever candidate practiced better. Jones said Worley ”took some strides moving forward” when he was pressed into duty Saturday after losing his starting spot.
”When he got in there, he didn’t feel sorry for himself,” Jones said. ”He went in there, and he was leading.”
Worley wasn’t made available for comment Monday.
”It hurts being the starter for the first three games and knowing I wasn’t doing enough for (the coaches’) liking, but I knew I had to be in it mentally,” Worley said after the Florida game. ”As a quarterback, or at any position, you’re only one snap away from being in the game.”
Last week, Jones talked about how his offense needed to make more big plays. After the Vols committed six turnovers against Florida, Jones shifted his focus and said his quarterbacks must avoid creating big plays for the opposition. He mentioned a play in which Worley attempted to throw the ball out of bounds and instead had a pass picked off by Jabari Gorman near the sideline.
”Our quarterbacks can’t make catastrophic mistakes,” Jones said. ”They have to eliminate the catastrophic plays. . . . Throw the ball away. Leave no doubt. Sometimes punt’s the only play. Let’s get to fourth down and play field position.”
Although Ferguson made the trip to Florida while Dobbs remained in Knoxville, Jones said that doesn’t indicate either player has an edge in the competition for the second-team spot. Jones said he would pick the contender who made the fewest mistakes and showed the best understanding of the offense.