It may have been the shortest week-long quarterback competition of all-time.
One day after Butch Jones said all four quarterbacks on the roster would be competing for the starting job, the first-year head coach announced true freshman Josh Dobbs will be making his first career start when the Vols take on the Missouri Tigers this Saturday.
"It'll be a great challenge for him in a great venue versus a great opponent," Jones said. "But I know he is looking forward to it."
The Alpharetta, Ga., native will be replacing Justin Worley, who underwent a successful surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The junior injured the thumb in the South Carolina game on Oct. 19 and aggravated it while making a tackle on Alabama defensive back Deion Belue, who was returning an interception, in the second quarter of UT's loss to the Crimson Tide last Saturday.
"We said it was an ever-changing process, so with further follow-up and examination he went in and had surgery on his thumb and he will be out an indefinite period of time," Jones said.
On the timetable of Worley's recovery, Jones added: "Everything is about how the body heals. It could be two weeks, it could be three weeks, it could be four weeks, so we will see how he progresses."
The decision to start Dobbs over his freshman counterpart Riley Ferguson was due in large part to the game experience the former-ESPN 300 recruit gained in the second half of the Alabama game where he went 5-of-12 with 75 yards passing.
Ferguson, however, will be the backup quarterback for the Vols as redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman is not quite ready to return from the broken hand he suffered at Florida earlier this year.
"He (Ferguson) will be our No. 2 and he will continue to push Josh moving forward," Jones said. "I'm comfortable with both quarterbacks, they both have done a great job, but I think we are going to lean toward the game experience that Josh was able to garner in the Alabama game."
That game experience showed flashes of the promise the young signal caller has, but his performance in the game inside a hostile environment like Bryant-Denny Stadium against the No. 1 team in the nation did not shock any of his teammates.
"It didn't surprise me, I had faith in him," said sophomore wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard. "I watched him all throughout camp over the summer. He picked up on the playbook early and did everything that it took for him to go out there and perform and that's exactly what he did."
Dobbs will be the fourth freshman quarterback to start for the Vols in the past four seasons, following Tyler Bray at Memphis on Nov. 6, 2010, Justin Worley against South Carolina on Oct. 29, 2011 and Nathan Peterman at Florida on Sept. 21, 2013.
Even though the 18-year old will be making his first start on the road inside the home of the No. 9 team in the nation, Jones insists that the playbook will not be cut just because there is a freshman at the helm.
"Everyone asks, 'With a freshman quarterback, do you have to scale your offensive package down and your gameplan?' But it's quite the contrary," Jones said. "We can actually do some more things in terms of our schemes with the quarterback."
Part of that expanded offensive gameplan may come from the versatility Dobbs provides with his legs.
While he didn't take off with the ball much against Alabama, Dobbs did record 19 yards on three carries, including an 11-yard first down run off of a zone read play.
"It means a lot," senior offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James said of Dobbs' mobility. "Defenses have to start respecting the pull of the quarterback, so they'll have a linebacker itching to stay outside or they'll have to hold a safety or something like that, so it definitely helps our offense."
Beyond the way he played in his first collegiate game, the biggest praise of Dobbs has been his control of the offense and his leadership, considering he was playing high school football a year ago.
"He's a vocal leader," senior offensive lineman Zach Fulton said. "He's taking command of things and making sure that we are getting lined up fast and things like that. He does all the little things that every quarterback should do."