Tennessee is looking to have a strong start under new head coach Josh Heupel. In order for that to happen, the Vols need quality and consistent play from the quarterback position. It’s a must to compete in the SEC.
There’s a competition at that spot going on this spring, but the depth took a hit this past Thursday when Heupel announced that freshman Kaidon Salter had been suspended indefinitely due to his involvement in an incident earlier this month.
“Kaidon was not on the practice field today,” Huepel said following the team’s first practice. “Kaidon is part of the group of individuals that are suspended from team activities at this point.”
Salter was one of four players suspended. The others include Aaron Willis, Martavius French and Isaac Washington, all of whom play on the defensive side of the ball. As of now, there’s no timetable for their return.
“That’s being handled on campus, and as we receive information, we’ll act accordingly,” Heupel continued. “There’s high expectations, high standards to represent Tennessee football.
“At the same time, we’re going to stay true to those kids and support them as they go through this process, and as we gain information, we’ll be able to share that.”
There’s a strong possibility that they’ll all come back at some point, but where does that leave the quarterback competition? Salter may just be a first-year player, but he is still a top talent out of Texas. According to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, he’s listed as the No. 154 overall player, No. 6 dual threat quarterback and No. 25 player from the state of Texas. The actual rankings for specifically 247Sports have him much higher, ranking him in the top 50.
Is he a true contender in the competition? Who knows, but the likely answer is yes. Unfortunately, his suspension significantly hurts his chances. It hasn’t eliminated him from a Year 1 impact, but his chances have taken a hit.
For now, the spring competition will come down to three players:
- Harrison Bailey: Highly recruited second-year guy who played in six games
- Hendon Hooker: Virginia Tech grad transfer with 15 career starts
- Brian Maurer: Veteran guy on the roster with 81 career passes
More than likely, it’ll come down to Bailey or Hooker. Both have very different styles of play, but both also have some appeal — especially in a Heupel offense. Is it considered a great group? Maybe not right now, but a lot can change.
Salter is going to be an important piece in the quarterback room though. In some ways, he’s a combination of Bailey and Hooker. He’s a highly-recruited young talent, but he also brings the dual threat ability that can help make offensive efficiency easier.
The Vols need him to come back and to keep his head on straight.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.