TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Welcome to SEC football, Justin Worley.
With Tennessee trailing Alabama 37-6 in the fourth quarter, the true freshman quarterback was introduced to what Derek Dooley called “as physically a dominating defense as I’ve seen in the modern era of college football.”
Worley, a Rock Hill, S.C., native and Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2010, took just five snaps but didn’t throw a pass.
“We were wanting to put him in to throw a little bit, but we fumbled the first play and then we were on the minus-6 inch line so we didn’t really get an opportunity,” Dooley said.
Worley replaced starter Matt Simms, who was just 9-of-17 for 58 yards and an interception.
“They were going to give him a few reps at the end of the game,” Simms said. “I was fine. I understood it.”
The decision to play Worley takes away the chance of him redshirting this season.
“I’ve never worried about redshirts. I don’t care,” Dooley said. “These guys, they don’t worry about staying for four years anymore so why should we worry about redshirts? They come out in three (years). When they stop coming out in three, we’ll start redshirting them.”
Johnson interception
Senior middle linebacker Austin Johnson gave the Vols momentum early in the first quarter when he picked off an A.J. McCarron pass on the Crimson Tide’s first drive.
It was just the second turnover forced by UT’s defense this season. The first came in the season-opener against Montana.
“We’ve been kind of harping turnovers all year,” Johnson said. “People have been saying this defense hasn’t really made any turnovers, so we’ve been kind of harping that, and I was in the right spot at the right time. The Lord blessed me, and it gave us a little momentum that we needed.”
Johnson, who played fullback during the 2009 season, joked he might’ve returned the interception more than the 19 yards he did if he was still in fullback-shape.
“I think back in my fullback days I probably would’ve scored,” he said. “Got to work on that a little bit.”
Up next
The Vols return home this Saturday to host SEC East foe South Carolina. The No. 14 Gamecocks had a bye last week and will come to Neyland Stadium without star sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, who’s out for the rest of the season with a leg injury.
“We’ve had to move on,” Simms said. “We’ve got another tough opponent. Good thing is that we’re at home. We can’t sit and think about this for too long.”
Said junior cornerback Prentiss Waggner: “It’s do or die for us right now.”