Worley's ready

Justin Worley

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At halftime of the 2010 South Carolina game, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley replaced Matt Simms with backup quarterback Tyler Bray.

At the start of the 2011 South Carolina game, Dooley replaced Simms with backup quarterback Justin Worley.

Now, as the 2012 South Carolina game approaches, there's a chance another quarterback shuffle is in store. Bray will start Saturday's game in Columbia but he won't finish it if he plays the way he has the past three contests.

"If he's loose with the ball he's coming out of the game, and we're going to play Worley ... and I've told him that," Dooley said during his Monday news conference.

The Vols have lost eight turnovers in the past three games, with Bray being responsible for seven of them.

Check it out:

— He lost three interceptions and a fumble in the Game 5 loss to Georgia. Three of the four turnovers occurred in the fourth quarter.

— He threw an interception just shy of halftime in the Game 6 loss to Mississippi State.

— He tossed two interceptions in the Game 7 loss to Alabama. One gave Bama a short field (32 yards) that it converted into a touchdown and a 14-3 second-quarter lead. The second was a late throw that cost Tennessee a TD that would've narrowed the gap to 30-17 with 1:30 left in third quarter.

"You can't beat these teams turning the ball over," Dooley said. "Turnovers are inevitable. But, when there is one, make them (defenders) make a great play to get it ... not serve it up to 'em ... which is what we do."

Basically, Bray is falling victim to bad mechanics and bad decisions.

"You can't make game-changing plays," Dooley said, referring to interceptions. "Throw it away or drop it down (to a secondary receiver) when you're not comfortable. There's a lot of things you can do when you're not comfortable in the pocket to not hurt the team. And Tyler knows that. It's part of being a quarterback."

With Bray struggling, Worley could see his first meaningful action of the season at South Carolina. He saw mop-up duty in the final minutes of the Alabama game, guiding Tennessee to a field goal.

"It was exciting that I got some reps and we went down and put three points on the board," he said.

Tennessee fans know all too well from what happened in 2011 that even the No. 3 quarterback isn't far from seeing the field. This year's version is another freshman, Nathan Peterman.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Nothing happened in Monday's practice to suggest that Bray is in imminent danger of losing his first-team status, however.

"Right now Tyler's still the starter," Worley said following the workout. "But every week we've got to be prepared, both me and Nathan (No. 3 QB Nathan Peterman)."

A native of Rock Hill, S.C., Worley will be returning to his home state for this weekend's game. That's added incentive.

"I'd love to play but that's in the coaches' hands right now," he said. "This actually will be my third time playing in Williams-Brice. It's exciting. I know a lot of folks who'll be there."

With Bray nursing a fractured thumb, Worley made his first college start against South Carolina as a true freshman in last year's game at Knoxville. He won't soon forget that 14-3 setback.

"It was my first game out there and I didn't play too well," he recalled. "If I get a shot this time, hopefully, I'll perform a little better.

"I was nervous going out there; I'm not going to lie to you. I needed to settle down. We went out and beat MTSU the next week, and I felt like I played a pretty solid ball game that week."

Indeed. After completing just 10 of 26 passes for 105 yards in the loss to Carolina, Worley bounced back to complete 23 of 32 for 291 yards in a 24-0 defeat of the Blue Raiders. He believes he has advanced light-years since then.

"I can't even compare myself from last year to this year," he said. "I've taken strides I'm proud of. Hopefully, it transitions to how I play."

Born in North Carolina, Worley grew up a Tar Heel fan. That didn't change when the family moved to South Carolina, especially since he was snubbed by Gamecock recruiters after a record-setting high school career in Rock Hill.

"Based on the guys they've brought in (to play quarterback) since — Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson — I think they wanted more of a dual-threat guy," Worley said. "Coming out of high school I wasn't a big runner."

Worley still isn't a big runner. Even so, he could play a big role in Saturday's game ... if Bray continues being "loose" with the football.

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