Ranking Tennessee quarterbacks over the past decade (2010-2020)
By: Anthony Ryan Cloud
Senior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call in Show
To say the past decade has been a rollercoaster for UT fans would be an understatement. Terrible seasons mixed with the occasional glimmer of hope have caused Vol fans heartache and anxiety. The Vols have seen three different coaches (Derek Dooley, Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt) over the past decade, just another fact that proves what Vol fans have endured.
Included in that heartache has been the revolving door at quarterback. There have been six different multi-game starters behind center over the last 10 years. Some had more success than others, but they all had their short-comings.
With the current season halfway over, it is a great opportunity to look at the quarterbacks Tennessee has had over the last decade (ranked from worst to best):
No. 6 Quinton Dormady: 2017
This is no shade to be thrown at Quinton Dormady. From day one, he was always viewed as the “other” quarterback for the Vols. After spending his first two years behind Josh Dobbs, he would finally get a chance to start as a junior in 2017. Heading into the season, he was favorited over redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano.
Dormady won the job and started the season 2-0 with wins over Georgia Tech and Indiana State. In those two games, he averaged 207.5 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception. The next week he threw for 259 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against Florida. He finished the year 1-2 with the victory coming against UMass.
A season-ending injury put Dormady on the sideline, allowing Guarantano to secure his spot as the starting quarterback. Dormady transferred from the Vols the following year.
No. 5 Jarrett Guarantano: 2017-2020
There may not be anyone on this list that has created so much emotion for Tennessee fans. When he was first recruited as a four-star, No. 2-rated dual-threat quarterback, Vol fans couldn’t wait to have him behind center. Fast forward to present day, Tennessee fans can’t wait to see him gone.
Guarantano’s starting tenure kicked off in 2017 when he took over for an injured Quinton Dormady. He finished the season winning one game (a 13-9 victory against Southern Miss). He went 5-7 in his first full season as a starter in 2018.
His best year to date was in 2019, where he led the Vols to an impressive 8-5 season despite starting the year 1-5. He finished the campaign throwing for 2,158 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
While his story at Tennessee isn’t finished, Guarantano has struggled this season. After starting the year off 2-0, the Vols have lost their last four games (Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas). As of publication, he has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 956 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.
No. 4 Matt Simms: 2010-11
As soon as Matt Simms stepped on campus as a junior college signee, there was hype. The son of NFL veteran Phil Simms and the brother of former Tampa Bay starting quarterback Chris Simms, many hoped that Matt Simms would help a Tennessee team that was looking for direction after the departure of Lane Kiffin. It didn't work out.
Simms started the first eight games of the 2010 season before being replaced prior to the Memphis game. During those first eight games, the younger Simms led the Vols to a 2-6 record with his only wins coming against UT-Martin in the season opener and an overtime victory over UAB three weeks later.
Probably the worst indictment to Simms' tenure was the fact Tennessee won their final four games of the regular season to sneak into a bowl game - a 30-27 double overtime loss to North Carolina. Simms saw limited action off the bench during that stretch.
Simms finished the season completing 113-of-195 of his passes for 1,460 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
In his final year with Tennessee, Simms was the backup for Tyler Bray. He started in two games - against No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. He finished the year throwing for 289 yards.
Despite his ranking on this list, Simms went on to sign a future/reserve contract for the New York Jets. He saw action during the 2013 season. He was later signed to the Atlanta Falcons practice squad in 2016 per reports.
No. 3 Justin Worley: 2013-14
Justin Worley wasn't a terrible quarterback. There were moments where he seemed like he possessed the tools to get Tennessee on the path to victory. Unfortunately, the injuries were just too much to rank him any higher than this spot.
A three-star recruit out of South Carolina, injuries derailed both his junior and senior campaigns, where he was named the starter for the Vols. Worley was on a roll in 2013 - leading the Vols to back-to-back wins to open the season over undersized Austin Peay and Western Kentucky.
Despite losses to Oregon, Florida and Georgia, Worley still was able to pull off an upset win over South Carolina inside Neyland Stadium. That would be the end of his run. Worley missed the rest of the season with Tennessee finishing 5-7 (2-6 in SEC). Prior to his injury, Worley completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards and 10 touchdowns.
His senior year ended with similar success. Worley helped the Vols defeat Utah State and Arkansas State to open the year. His only other victory came against UT-Chattanooga. He suffered a shoulder injury in the Ole Miss game and missed the remainder of the season. He ended the year completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,579 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Worley was signed to the Chicago Bears' practice squad in November 2015, but his contract was terminated shortly after.
No. 2 Tyler Bray: 2010-2012
Tyler Bray is one of the major “what if” quarterbacks throughout this decade. What if he had a decent team? What if he had a decent coach? What if, what if, what if. The fact is, Bray had all the tools to be an All-American quarterback, from his size to his arm strength. He was very good inside the pocket and decent at going through his progressions.
Unfortunately, a bad coach and a subpar team has landed him in the No. 2 spot on this list. It's not like Bray didn't have great stats throughout his tenure at UT. He just couldn't make his overall team better.
Bray got his first start during the 2010 season after replacing then-starter Matt Simms. He would go on to defeat Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to give the Vols a bowl game. The team lost in the Music City Bowl to North Carolina.
Despite only starting five games, Bray led Tennessee in passing yards throwing for 1,849. He easily outpaced Simms in passing TDs with 18 to Simms' eight. He finished the year completing 55.8 percent of his passes.
The next year, Bray and the Vols failed to make a bowl game after finishing the season 5-7 with a 1-7 SEC record. The only SEC game Tennessee won that year was to Vanderbilt. The other four victories came against Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Middle Tennessee State.
With that said, Bray still put up ridiculous numbers while only starting seven games due to injury. He passed for 1,983 yards with 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He completed just over 59 percent of his passes on the year.
The national media recognized Bray's potential heading into the 2012 season. He was named to the 2012 preseason watch lists for the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards. He was also listed as a preseason All-SEC Third Team selection.
Unfortunately - as was the case throughout Bray's career in the Orange and White - a bad season for the Vols overshadowed just how great Bray's individual season was. He finished the year completing 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns. With over 450 pass attempts, he threw only 12 interceptions.
Those stats weren't enough to take Tennessee to the top of the SEC. In fact, the Vols finished with yet another 1-7 conference record while repeating as 5-7. Kentucky was the only SEC opponent the Vols defeated during the season.
According to Tennessee Athletics, Bray finished his career at UT fourth in touchdowns, fourth in pass yards, fifth in completions and fourth in pass attempts.
After declaring early for the draft, Bray was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chiefs.
No. 1 Josh Dobbs: 2013-2016
Despite those who gave and still give Josh Dobbs the snub, he is easily the best quarterback Tennessee has had in 10 years. Say what you want about some of his decisions on the field, the kid knew how to win. He had the size, speed and intangibles that make great quarterbacks. He led Tennessee to three straight bowl victories, and one could spend a whole article talking about all the awards he won while at UT.
Dobbs took over as the starter for Tennessee on Oct. 29, 2013 after playing the entire second half against Alabama. He ended up losing the next three games - two against top-10 opponents - before picking up a win against Kentucky.
Dobbs finished the year throwing for 695 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown.
The next year, Dobbs competed and lost a chance to be the open day starter to Justin Worley. He would eventually take over again against Alabama before leading the Vols to a victory over South Carolina. He went on to win two of the next three games to take Tennessee to a bowl game.
Dobbs and Tennessee defeated Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl to end the season. He was named bowl MVP.
The Georgia-native ended his sophomore campaign with 1,206 yards passing while completing 63.3 percent of his passes. In addition to that, he was second on the team in rushing yards with 469 and led the team in rushing touchdowns with eight.
Dobbs was the opening-day starter in 2013. Leading the Vols to a 9-4 record (5-3 SEC), Dobbs' only losses came against Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama. Tennessee would finish the season winning six straight games including a 45-6 victory over No. 12 Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.
Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards, 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions on the year while completing 59.6 percent of his passes. He rushed for over 650 yards on the season and tallied 11 rushing touchdowns.
Dobbs led the Vols to another 9-4 season in his final year. In what was an up-and-down season, Tennessee started the year off 5-0 before losing three straight to Texas A&M, Alabama and a shocker to South Carolina.
The Vols won three straight before losing a disheartening battle to Vanderbilt. Still, Tennessee defeated Nebraska 38-24 in the Music City Bowl.
Dobbs' stats were impressive in his senior campaign - throwing for 2,946 yards and 27 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He led the team in rushing with a team-high 831 yards and 12 touchdowns.
According to UT Athletics, Dobbs' 23-12 record as a starter ties him for fifth-most wins for a Tennessee quarterback. He set career records for a quarterback in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and single-season rushing touchdowns. He ranks fifth in Tennessee history in career passing yards and third in total offense.
Dobbs was drafted with the 135th pick by the Steelers in the 2017 draft.