KNOXVILLE - Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian spoke after Wednesday's practice for the first time since the Volunteers settled their quarterback competition by naming Justin Worley their starting quarterback for Saturday's opener against Austin Peay.
Not surprisingly, Bajakian was asked multiple questions about the topic, and here's what he had to say.
Q: Have you liked Justin's response this week in practice?
Bajakian: "Not at all. In a sense, he's been given that green light to even take more control and take more ownership of the team, and he's embraced that role. Again, when we talk about embracing the process, he's done that. I could hear him being more vocal and being more of a presence, and I'm excited about that."
Q: You mentioned a green light. Is there maybe, not a switch necessarily that he flipped? "OK, now I'm the starter, now I can attack this more."
Bajakian: "I think when you're competing in a quarterback battle or a positional battle like that, to a certain degree there's a sense of - I don't want to call it relief - but there's a sense of ownership that comes with being officially dubbed the starter. I think he can deep sigh and know, 'OK, now it's time to just go out and play.'"
Q: Was it important, Mike, that you guys gave him the green light and, in turn, saw more from him in that regard this week?
Bajakian: "Sure, and again, for us it's improvement every day. If I don't see even more improvement tomorrow, I'd be upset, and the day after and the day after. I expect him to grow tremendously in that role throughout the course of the season. At the same time, Nate [Peterman] and the other quarterbacks have no stopped competing, and they're in there watching video. They're in there demanding a lot of their teammates, so it's good to see that in every facet their game has stepped up."
Q: Behind him, have those three done exactly what you want them to do and tried to compete out there?
Bajakian: "It's a competitive group. It's a proud group. While I'm sure there's disappointment in all their hearts about not being the starter, they've gone out and competed every day."