DESTIN, Fla. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones doesn’t expect quarterback Riley Ferguson to return to the Volunteers.
"Riley’s no longer with the program," Jones said Tuesday night during the Southeastern Conference spring meetings. Earlier Tuesday, Volquest had reported that Jones said he didn’t expect Ferguson to remain with the Vols.
Ferguson, a redshirt freshman, was expected to compete with senior Justin Worley and sophomores Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman for the starting job. Although a leg injury prevented Ferguson from playing last season — he was the only one of the four quarterbacks who didn’t start at least one game — he impressed coaches with his arm strength and upside.
Ferguson had quarterbacked two state championship teams at Butler High School in Matthews, North Carolina. During Tennessee’s spring game last month, he went 7 of 12 for 83 yards and a touchdown, but also threw an interception and lost a fumble.
Ferguson’s departure would leave Tennessee with a three-man quarterback competition featuring Worley, Dobbs and Peterman.
Worley started seven games last season before having season-ending thumb surgery. He completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Tennessee went 4-3 in the games he started.
Dobbs started the final four games in place of Worley and completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 695 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 189 yards and one touchdown on 38 carries. Tennessee went 1-3 in the games he started.
Peterman started ahead of Worley in a 31-17 loss to Florida before injuring his throwing hand. Peterman played as a backup in two other games and finished the season 10 of 23 for 45 yards with two interceptions.
Jones hasn’t named a leader in the competition. Tennessee opens its season Aug. 31 against Utah State.
"Each individual’s had their moments," Jones said last month. "I thought Josh Dobbs had a very, very good performance in our spring game. I thought Justin Worley was extremely consistent throughout the whole process. We saw glimpses of what Riley Ferguson could be, and I thought Nate Peterman showed some consistency throughout the entire course of spring."