Vols' Simms moves to the forefront

When Tennessee signed Matt Simms out of junior college back in December, there was some thought that he might be an insurance policy.

But as the Vols point toward their spring game on April 17, it's becoming more and more likely that Simms may well be their starting quarterback.

Simms has outplayed senior Nick Stephens for much of this spring, and Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said on Tuesday that Simms would start getting more work with the first unit and that Stephens' work with the first team would decrease.

In addition, Dooley said true freshman Tyler Bray would starting getting more snaps with the second unit and would also get some first-team work.

The translation: Unless Stephens makes a big comeback the rest of this spring and over the summer, the Vols' offensive staff has serious doubts about his ability to be the starter.

Stephens played some two years ago when the Vols were struggling so much at quarterback during Phillip Fulmer's final season. But last season, when Jonathan Crompton had that brutal stretch in September, the Vols never turned to Stephens.

Jim Chaney was the offensive coordinator then, and he's the offensive coordinator now. He also evaluated Stephens out of high school when he was coaching at Purdue.

Again, unless something changes, Chaney simply isn't sold on Stephens being his quarterback, and Dooley made it clear that this decision is not a result of just one scrimmage. Stephens finished 3-of-9 for 6 yards in last Thursday's scrimmage.

"You have kind of a general plan of not overreacting to every practice, and we haven't," Dooley said. "But when you go halfway through the spring, that's a great time to do an early evaluation of where we are. That's what we did and we'll probably re-evaluate it again at the end."

Simms is the son of former NFL star Phil Simms and the younger brother of current NFL quarterback Chris Simms and started his career at Louisville before transferring to El Camino College in Torrance, Calif. Ironically enough, Chris Simms once committed to Tennessee before changing his mind and going to Texas.

That's been more than a decade ago, but now it appears that a Simms will get a chance to lead the Vols at quarterback after all.