QB Nick Stephens to transfer from Tennessee

Quarterback Nick Stephens plans to leave Tennessee and find a

school where he’s assured of starting in his final year of

eligibility, coach Derek Dooley said Thursday.

The redshirt senior was concerned that the competition for the

starting spot with junior college transfer Matt Simms and incoming

freshman Tyler Bray could end up costing him a chance to play.

“Nick’s in his fifth year and of course has been trying to get

on the field his whole career,” Dooley said. “(He) just felt like

it was too risky to go through another season because he just wants

to play. We hate to lose Nick, but I certainly understand.”

Stephens hasn’t determined where he will play but will go to

either a Football Championship Subdivision school or one in a lower

division so that he won’t lose his final year of eligibility.

The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Flower Mound, Texas, native started six

games in 2008 as he and Jonathan Crompton failed to take control of

the Vols’ struggling offense in coach Phillip Fulmer’s final

season. Stephens backed up Crompton in 2009 in coach Lane Kiffin’s

offense.

He struggled last week in the Vols’ first spring scrimmage,

finishing 3-of-9 for 6 yards.

Stephens the third Tennessee player to leave since Dooley was

hired in January to replace Kiffin, who left for Southern

California. Running back Bryce Brown and offensive lineman Aaron

Douglas have also let the program.

“I expected attrition certainly. Over the last three years

there’s been an inordinate amount of attrition, and to say it

hasn’t hurt the program is not being forthright,” Dooley said.

“What I hope is that we get our arms around it at some point and

then we get a little stability, and I expect that to happen.”

The Vols also have sophomore Nick Lamaison to bolster depth at

quarterback this spring with freshman quarterback Nash Nance

joining the squad in the fall as well.

Stephens’ departure paves the way for junior college transfer

Matt Simms, son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms,

to take control of the Vols’ offense.

Simms will continue to compete with Bray for the starting job

but appears to be somewhat ahead of the freshman because of his

experience as a redshirt freshman at Louisville and at El Camino

Community College in California.

He’s also won the respect of his teammates because of his

attitude.

“I like his whole swagger, his whole demeanor,” senior wide

receiver Gerald Jones said. “He’s confident in himself, and he’s

confident in the players around him. He has a very strong arm, and

I think his weakness right now is just getting used to the offense

and timing.”