It wasn't even a week ago that redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson was considered a serious candidate to start at quarterback for Tennessee this coming season, despite being the only competitor in the Vols' four-way spring QB derby that didn't start a game in 2013.
That changed in dramatic fashion Tuesday when Butch Jones told the Knoxville News-Sentinel that he does not expect Ferguson to return to the Volunteer roster.
“As of right now, based on our recent conversations, we do not anticipate that he will be a member of our football family moving forward,” Jones said.
Jones declined to offer any firm reason behind Ferguson's decision, only speculating Ferguson may want to play closer to his North Carolina home.
A three-star signee out of Matthews, N.C., Ferguson originally committed to Derek Dooley in 2012, stuck with the Vols after Jones's hiring, and may have been in line for 2013 playing time had a fractured tibia not forced a redshirt. He played well in Tennessee 's spring camp and was widely considered, at worst, still in contention for the starter's job and likely just ahead of Dobbs for the backup's role if Jones went with narrow favorite Worley.
If Worley or Dobbs proves worthy of the starter's job, Ferguson may not be much missed in Knoxville. But given that that's a big "if," and that Jones simply cannot afford lackluster quarterback play when so many other questions dog the Vol roster, having one fewer option under center -- particularly one widely regarded as having the highest ceiling of any of the four candidates -- may see Ferguson missed badly after all.
For more on Ferguson's decision, see Wes Rucker's commentary at GoVols247.