There's an old saying in football that if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.
While that might be a slight exaggeration, it has plenty of merit.
When true freshman Tyler Bray entered the game early in the second quarter Saturday against Alabama, replacing starter Matt Simms, the Vols trailed the Crimson Tide 10-7. UT then committed three pre-snap penalties with Bray under center, going three-and-out and were forced to punt.
Many Vols fans have wanted Bray to have the starting role since the team's Orange and White game in the spring. Bray's expectations for the season were tempered a bit after throwing an interception against UT-Martin in the team's season opener. But at Georgia two weeks ago, Bray led a mostly freshmen offensive unit straight down the field against the Bulldogs before turning over the ball on downs near the UGA end zone.
Message boards began to flood with posts about Bray getting more playing time. While Bray is more talented than Simms, and clearly the quarterback of the future on Rocky Top, he is still just a freshman. It's been a long maturing process for the Kingsburg, Calif., native, both physically and mentally.
Last Monday, UT coach Derek Dooley surprised some by saying the game plan heading into the Alabama game included getting Bray significant snaps, preferably in the first half.
The experiment failed, no doubt about it.
After the game, Simms said he was disappointed to be taken out of the game in such a critical situation but understood it was what the coaches wanted to do.
"Yeah, they know exactly how I feel about that," Simms said of the coaches. "I knew the plan going into the game was to get (Bray) a few drives or whatever. By the way things were going in the game at that moment, I really didn't think that I was going to get taken out — later on in the game maybe.
"They stayed true to their plan and I respect that, and I thank them for being honest with me, but at the same time those drives right there, I feel like I need to be out there, because I feel like I'm missing out on plays that could have been made or penalties that could have been avoided."
While Dooley has yet to see a revolving door at quarterback in Knoxville, Vols fans know all too well how it ends.
In 2005, UT entered the season with a lofty preseason ranking of No. 3 in the country. Sophomore quarterback Erik Ainge was suppose to lead the Vols to an SEC title and possibly a national championship. Instead the Vols finished the year 5-6, and it was senior Rick Clausen, not Ainge, who was the most productive passer for the Vols.
Whether Ainge was still recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury from the season before or was mentally not ready to handle a full playbook, he simply couldn't repeat the success he had during his freshman campaign, when he helped lead the Vols to the SEC Eastern division title.
In 2008, former five-star recruit Jonathan Crompton was ready to finally take over the starting quarterback duties for the Vols. Expectations were high, as he was being compared to fellow North Carolina native Heath Shuler.
Crompton's 2008 season was disastrous, especially the season opener at UCLA and the game at Auburn. Crompton was benched in favor of backup Nick Stephens and eventually Chattanooga-native B.J. Coleman at points late during the season .
The 2008 Vols finished the season 5-7, in large part because of inept play from the quarterback position.
While Simms' play this year has been far better than the play of Ainge in '05 and Crompton in '08, UT coaches felt that Bray at least gave the team a better chance to win against Alabama.
Because the experiment failed, Dooley will receive his fair share of criticism for the move. Maybe he deserves it.
Regardless, Vols fans should remember how the '05 and '08 seasons transpired, especially at the quarterback position, before wanting Dooley to keep changing the Vols' starting quarterback.
As much as it pains some to admit, Dooley still knows more about this team than the 102,000 fans sitting in Neyland Stadium each Saturday.