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N. C. State—Tennessee Preview #20: Put Down the Clipboard, Son, and Find Your Helmet

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We had a little analysis on UT signal caller Tyler Bray Friday, and a more in depth look at the starting QBs for the Vols-Pack kickoff classic matchup is in the offing, but given the recent news of Tyler Brosius's departure from the program, a look at the clipboard holders that could be pressed into duty seems to be in order.

UT backup Justin Worley started 3 games under center last year, spelling the injured Bray, while State would have to rely on true freshman Manny Stocker, the only eligible scholarship QB on the roster other than senior Mike Glennon, so Tennessee would appear to have a decided advantage if this game came down to the backup signal callers.

After Bray went down, Worley (6-4, 213 SO) had to burn his redshirt year to try to stave off the great vortex of suck that was Matt Simms, but other than a sparkling 291-yard performance against Middle Tennessee State, Worley did not provide much relief. Worley completed just 10 of 26 attempts against South Carolina in his debut, and two errant balls came to rest in the clutches of eager Cocks. In Worley's defense, the Ol' Ball Coach's defense was second in the nation against the pass last year in terms of opponents' QB rating. After the trouncing of MTSU, Worley played less suckily against Arkansas than he had against South Carolina, completing 15 of 29 attempts for 208 yards and one pick. The Razorbacks were no slouch against the pass, finishing 17th in QB rating allowed. Worley had one big game against a 2-10 Sun Belt team and two somewhat forgettable games against SEC foes, but his performance is less about the results and more about the experience. He is not likely to crap his spandex on the big stage and can likely at least play well enough not to lose the game; in fact, his performance against Arkansas pretty much mirrored what Bray has done against better competition, so there may be little drop off if UT is relegated to its second string signal caller.

Worley was certainly well regarded out of Northwestern High School in South Carolina, where the former 3-sport star won the Gatorade National Player of the Year honor after throwing for over 5,300 yards in his senior season. Promise. That's not a misprint. Worley tossed 64 touchdown passes en route to leading Northwestern to a 15-0 season that culminated in a state championship. Burning his redshirt year was unfortunate for the Vols, as now Worley is only one season behind Bray in terms of eligibility, but if Bray leaves early for the professional beer chucking league, or even the NFL, Worley will have two years at the helm. Either way, he is the heir apparent. If Worley does not work out, Florida kid Nathan Peterman (6-2, 226 FR), ranked as high as the 10th best 2012 QB prospect by one major scouting service, is waiting in the wings.

The heir apparent at N. C. State, especially since Brosius decided to concentrate on baseball (cough failed to do his job in the classroom cough cough), is Pete Thomas (6-5, 225 JR). The only problem is that, as a transfer from Colorado State, Thomas has to sit out a season. Thomas has thrown for over 4,200 yards and 18 touchdowns at the collegiate level already, completing 63.5% of his passes. He was a 4-star recruit according to Rivals, and sported a 4.0 in high school, so Thomas would seem to be the kind of high character student-athlete preferred by Tom O'Brien.

Stocker, listed at 6-1 about a year ago, has grown to 6-3, and his 4.6 speed makes him a dual threat at QB. He was a consensus 3-star recruit but ranked no higher than the 64th best QB by any scouting service, though had he been 6-3 at the time he likely would have been more highly regarded as a pocket-passing prospect. His numbers were very solid in high school, where he amassed 3,105 yards and 37 touchdowns over his final two seasons. He completed 61.1% of his throws and averaged 15.4 yards per completion. The plan was for Stocker to redshirt then be groomed for the future while Thomas or Brosius spent a couple of years under center, but Brosius's departure is a stick of dynamite in those plans. If #ncstateshit befalls Mr. Glennon, Stocker's future will be now.

Remember, the last dual threat QB to start as a freshman at State was some guy named Russell Wilson. That worked out pretty well. Stocker is taller, faster, and had a 3-star ranking compared to Wilson's 2-star rating. Of course Wilson was horribly underrated and had the benefit of a redshirt year, but perhaps if Stocker is called upon sooner than expected, he will surprise too.