KNOXVILLE -- Injuries and ineffectiveness forced Tennessee to start three different quarterbacks each of the past two seasons.
That means freshmen Quinten Dormady and Sheriron Jones better be ready in case the Volunteers run into similar misfortune in 2015.
What appeared to be a three-man race for Tennessee's backup spot in the spring is now, after Jauan Jennings switched to wide receiver, a two-man battle between Dormady and Jones, who's from California and was once committed to the Florida Gators.
Dormady has a huge headstart after enrolling early and participating in spring practice, during which he impressed, but Jones has been trying to make up ground from the moment he stepped on campus a couple of months ago.
"(Jones) throws a really good ball," starting quarterback Josh Dobbs said after Tuesday night's practice. "Obviously I'm not going to get into any technique things, but I think the biggest thing is his willingness to learn. He came in from day one and was asking me, 'Hey, let's go up and let's watch some film. Teach me the offense, basically.'
"That was great to see from a kid coming in here from Cali. He's a long way from home. He came in and was ready to jump right into football and start working, so I really love seeing that."
At Rancho Verde High School, roughly 70 miles outside of Los Angeles, the 6-foot-2, 182-pound Jones, a former four-star recruit, threw for more than 2,000 yards and tossed 24 touchdown passes as a senior in 2014. He committed to Tennessee in January, shortly after Dormady and Jennings arrived on campus.
Though a shoulder injury prohibited him from throwing for weeks after his arrival, Dormady took advantage of starting his career early, impressed Tennessee's coaches during spring practice and performed well in the Vols' Orange and White Game.
Dormady entered preseason camp with what appears to be a pretty firm grasp on the No. 2 job, and his five-month, 15-practice headstart on Jones — who demonstrated his quick release and flashed his speed in his debut — was evident during Tuesday's opening practice.
"You could see where Quinten has that experience under his belt," Vols coach Butch Jones said. "Quinten did a great job of really coming out, and you could see the command presence, where Sheriron is still digesting the playbook and all that. He'll work exceptionally hard to get better.
"I was really, really pleased with Quinten. I thought Quinten did some really good things, and just the growth and maturation from spring football, you could kind of see the momentum from the spring game carry over into practice one."
The Vols would prefer to avoid losing Dobbs and having to thrust either freshman into the starting role, but Dormady and Jones have another month of practices to prepare themselves to be ready if that situation arises, as it has in recent seasons.
"(Jones) had a very good day," Dobbs said. "He came in from day one trying to compete. That's just how he is. He has a dog-like mentality, which is great to see, and he wants to learn the game. I really enjoyed practice with him today. We've been working constantly, all the quarterbacks have, throughout the summer. Sheriron really impressed me today."
* The brace he wore during practice and the bag of ice wrapped around his left knee afterward were proof receiver Jason Croom continues to deal with the lingering effects of dislocating his kneecap during bowl practice in December.
The 6-foot-5, 243-pounder said he's 100 percent healthy, though, and has been "doing everything" physically for months.
"It's always different doing offseason workouts and getting back into football shape," Croom said. "Our strength and conditioning (staff), they do a good job of preparing us, so it's not like I'm out there just dying. It still takes a little time to get back into football conditioning."
* Add freshman Austin Smith to the middle linebacker derby.
Coach Jones said the 6-foot-2, 234-pound Smith could play any of the three linebacker positions or bulk up into a linebacker/defensive end hybrid.
Smith, who played at Georgia high school football powerhouse Buford, was rated as a three-star prospect despite pulling in scholarship offers from most of the Southeastern Conference, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina.
"He has a frame that he's going to continue to put weight on," Jones said. "He's very, very, very, explosive, and he runs very well. His retention was very good today from the classroom to the field."
* Freshman defensive tackle Quay Picou, Smith's former teammate at Buford, is on campus and watching practices while he awaits a resolution on his eligibility from the NCAA.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.