University of Tennessee freshman quarterback Justin Worley reckoned he wouldn't play a meaningful down this fall following an epic season as a high school senior in which he won 2010-11 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year honors. He was wrong.
Worley will start for the host Volunteers this Saturday night against No. 13 South Carolina. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound signal-caller was told he was the Vols’ new starter on Sunday; the school announced the decision on Monday.
Worley, elevated due to sophomore No. 1 Tyler Bray's thumb injury and senior backup Matt Simms' ineffectiveness, turns 19 next month.
He becomes the third straight Gatorade National POY at the quarterback position to see meaningful action as a freshman. USC starter Matt Barkley, Gatorade's 2007-08 National POY as a high school junior, has started for the Trojans since the first game of the 2009 season. As a freshman at Texas, 2008-09 National POY Garrett Gilbert acquitted himself admirably in replacing the injured Colt McCoy against Alabama's No. 1 defense in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game.
Worley passed for 5,315 yards and 64 touchdowns as a senior at Northwestern (Rock Hill, S.C.), completing 73 percent of 590 attempts. He led the Trojans to a 15-0 record and the Class 4A-II state title.
Interestingly, Saturday's start will reunite Worley and high school rival Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's No. 1 recruit as a senior and a freshman defensive end for the Gamecocks. The last time the two players met, Worley passed for 314 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-20 win over Clowney's South Pointe squad in a game that was nationally televised on ESPNU in August 2010.
Worley is South Carolina's single-season and career prep record-holder for touchdown passes and passing yardage, carving apart opposing defenses during a three-year varsity career that produced 157 TDs and almost eight miles of passing yardage. He completed 73 percent of his passes in 2010, produced a touchdown every 9.2 attempts and finished with a 5.8-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio despite throwing 39.3 times per game.
On Saturday, six of the 12 starting quarterbacks in the powerhouse SEC will be members of the Gatorade POY family: Worley at UT, 2010-11 Florida winner Jeff Driskel at the University of Florida, 2008-09 Indiana winner Morgan Newton at the University of Kentucky, 2008-09 Alabama winner Clint Moseley at Auburn University, 2008-09 Mississippi winner Tyler Russell at Mississippi State and 2007-08 Louisiana winner Jordan Jefferson at LSU.