- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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It's probably fitting that Justin Worley's first start in college would come against South Carolina.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley announced Monday that Worley would be the Vols' starter this Saturday after the true freshman played some in the second half last week against Alabama.
The original plan was to redshirt Worley this season. But with Tyler Bray out with a broken thumb and senior backup Matt Simms struggling the past two weeks, the Vols decided to take the redshirt off of Worley, which almost certainly means that he will be Tennessee's quarterback the rest of the season.
Otherwise, why waste his redshirt season if he's just going to share snaps or perform mop-up duty?
Worley, who's from Rock Hill, S.C, was the Gatorade National Player of the year his senior year of high school and set a state record that season with 64 touchdown passes. However, the Gamecocks didn't recruit him because they didn't think he moved well enough or was a fit for their offense. Clemson also passed on him. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Worley is more of a pocket passer and threw for more than 13,000 yards during his high school career.
He'll be trying to avoid at least one familiar face on Saturday night in Neyland Stadium. South Carolina freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is also from Rock Hill, S.C., and the two were part of several memorable games between crosstown rival high schools over the past few years.
Worley didn't throw a pass last week in his limited duty against Alabama, but Dooley said he's shown improvement on the practice field. Dooley also said the Vols needed to do something to get more out of their passing game after Simms completed just 38 percent of his passes the past two weeks and was intercepted three times.
"We're not throwing and catching the way we need to, and we're not calling the game the way we want to," Dooley said. "So, we just need to make this move. I just feel like it's the right one. It's not something that's done on a whim. You know, we have a lot of data to make a switch. We don't have a lot of data on Justin."
There's a chance that Bray could be back for the regular-season finale against Kentucky, but the more likely scenario is that he's back for a bowl game, provided the Vols make one.
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