Butch Jones has chosen to go with experience by deciding on junior Justin Worley to start at quarterback for Tennessee in its season opener against Austin Peay on Saturday, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.
A former three-star prospect out of Rock Hill, S.C., Worley signed with Tennessee in 2011 and has played primarily as a backup ever since. He appeared in nine games over the past two seasons, completing 63 of 110 passes for 738 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.
At 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, Worley has the measurables of a sturdy pocket passer but lacks the athletic dimension usually associated with quarterbacks in Jones' uptempo offense. Worley will have the benefit of one of the SEC's best offensive lines, however, with four of its five starters on the preseason coaches' All-SEC teams.
Returning lead tailback Rajion Neal will help, but who Worley will throw the ball to might be the bigger question for the Vols, who lost 2,914 yards and 26 touchdowns from their top four receivers in 2012. Starting wideouts Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson are gone, along with starting tight end Mychal Rivera.
Whoever settles in under center for Tennessee will have a tough go of it as the Vols sport one of the toughest schedules in the conference. Starting against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky isn't an insurmountable obstacle, but facing top-10 opponents Oregon, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama over the next six games could prove brutal to a first-time starter.