KNOXVILLE — The tone of Butch Jones' quarterback assessment did not change Monday. Tennessee's fifth-year football coach has yet to verbally anoint junior Quinten Dormady as the team's starting quarterback.
But with a road game at Florida next on the Volunteers' schedule, Dormady appears clearly established as the team's starting quarterback ahead of challenger Jarrett Guarantano, who made his collegiate debut in Tennessee's 42-7 win over Indiana State on Saturday.
"I thought Quinten continued to improve," Jones said in his weekly news conference. "I thought his footwork was better. I thought his accuracy for the most part improved. I liked his game management with some checks at the line of the scrimmage.
"But we have to take care of the football. The quarterback is the caretaker of the football, and he understands that."
Dormady committed his first two turnovers of the season on consecutive possessions in the the third quarter against Indiana State. The junior also threw two touchdown passes, bringing his season total to four just days after he led the Volunteers (2-0) back from a 14-point deficit in a season-opening win over Georgia Tech.
"I'm impressed with what Quinten's done," senior offensive tackle Brett Kendrick said. "I think he's had a good first two games."
Dormady's teammates have praised him for his poise and command early in the season. If Tennessee's game at Florida (0-1) on Saturday continues as expected in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, those skills will be in high demand.
The Vols have not won at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 2003.
"Yeah, it's going to be different going to the Swamp," senior tight end Ethan Wolf said. "It's a bit of a change. It's going to be loud on third downs, whereas home games it's not as loud. The biggest thing is composure and confidence in those guys (quarterbacks), and we're going to help them every step of the way."
Dormady completed 13 of 18 passes against Indiana State. He was relieved by Guarantano for part of the second quarter and all of the fourth quarter.
In his first game action, Guarantano completed four of 12 passes, including a fourth-quarter touchdown throw to receiver Jeff George. The redshirt freshman also flashed his speed, escaping the pocket for a gain of 12 yards on a third-and-8 to set up the touchdown pass.
"Again, there's no substitute for live game repetitions, and he did some very good things," Jones said of Guarantano. "A couple times on ball location, he did a very good job of standing in the pocket and being able to deliver the ball. But all the nuances of managing the line of scrimmage and getting in the right play and all those things, that comes with repetitions, that's the only way you can simulate it. So the more game repetitions he gets, the better he's going to become."
Jones said it was "great" to play both quarterbacks Saturday, and he noted that both will continue to compete this week in preparation for the Florida game.
In his first trip to coach at Florida in 2013, Jones benched Tennessee junior starter Justin Worley following a blowout loss at Oregon in favor of redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman.
The move backfired. Peterman struggled and was injured. He never regained his footing at Tennessee and transferred to Pittsburgh, where he became a successful quarterback.
Dormady has been sharper to this point than Worley was in 2013 when he was benched.
"He's always been real calm, and I think he's done a great job so far," Kendrick said. "He's got a great command of the offense. He's an older guy who has been here long enough. He knows what it takes to win. He follows exactly what (Joshua) Dobbs was doing last year, and it's kind of good to have that calm, steady presence at quarterback."
Contact David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org.