Rising senior quarterback Nick Stephens hit the road on Thursday, waving bye-bye to the Vols as a result of a starting job that was slipping through his fingers.
Understandably so, Stephens wasn't a fan of new junior college transfer Matt Simms and freshman Tyler Bray sharing first-team reps early last week. Those reps, as far as Stephens was concerned, were his.
In a sense, who could blame him? Stephens is a fifth-year senior. Always a backup, never a starter for most of his career, aside from a few starts during UT's forgettable 2008 campaign. This was his last chance to be "the guy" from UT.
But last weekend's scrimmage proved otherwise for Stephens. Though media were not allowed in the team's scrimmage last Saturday, all accounts (and the stats provided by UT) pointed to an inaccurate Stephens who didn't perform like a first-team player.
Thus, head coach Derek Dooley split up first teams reps. The newcomers were given a shot, and Stephens didn't like what he saw.
Stephens evidently spoke with Dooley about his intentions to leave, and Dooley laid his chances out on the table for the senior. Again, Stephens didn't like what he heard.
You have to give Dooley credit for the lack of smoke and mirrors. Dooley was reportedly straightforward with Stephens in telling his senior signal-caller what every player should know: if you don't perform, those who do perform will pass you up.
While Stephens was the only quarterback on UT's roster with any in-game experience as a Vol, the loss may not leave the squad ailing any more than it already was. Even with Stephens, inexperience already plagued the Vols under center, and the offensive line will be all-new, giving said quarterback little protection in the first place.
On the bright side, Simms evidently looks like a quarterback with potential. Some players have commented about the newbie's noticable swagger, something those same players admitted was lacking in former quarterback's Jonathan Crompton and Erik Ainge.
Is this swagger a fault? Could be, but with such a young team, a sign of leadership could be what every position needs. And for the Vols, quarterback is a position in desperate need of some leadership.. and maybe a little skill, as well.