UT should double-dip in Blount County
by Tony Basilio
College football is notorious for sheepish administrations. Florida, West Virginia, and other notables are running the spread offense successfully. So now everybody is looking for the next Tim Tebow. Tennesseeâ’s even getting into the act by wooing Alcoa quarterback Randall Cobb, who committed to Kentucky last summer, as the man to bring Tennessee into the next century. Now itâ’s time for the Vols to double-dip in Blount County and become offensively relevant for the new century.
Itâ’s time for someone in big-time football other than Tom Brady to give GQ a shot. With six state championships (four consecutive) and a state-record 60 consecutive wins at the high-school level, Maryvilleâ’s George Quarles has done it all and then some. Itâ’s time for his next challenge. Itâ’s time for Phillip Fulmer and Tennessee to provide the next platform for him.
Whenâ"or even beforeâ"current Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe takes his next appointment, Tennessee needs to roll the dice with Quarles. He may just be the finest coach in the state, bar none. Iâ’m talking college, NFL, arena, you name it. As a play caller, Quarles is special. As he showed in Maryvilleâ’s 28-13 win over Maplewood in the state championship game, Quarles has an acute feel for the right time to hit the accelerator.
Naysayers argue that Maryvilleâ’s run of state titles is a tad tainted by the fact that they play 4A ball, and not with the big boys in 5A. Still, for many years, the Rebs arenâ’t the best team in their classification, yet they win it anyway. Why? Because itâ’s great to be G.Q. Or coached by him, anyway. Unlike Tennesseeâ’s offense this century, the bigger the stakes, the better his play calling becomes. A couple of years ago when Maryville opened the season as an underdog against Alcoa (seven Division I signees suited up in 2005 for the Tornados), Quarles knew he needed to turn it up. Iâ’ll never forget the opening kickoffâ"he called an onside kick on the road, scored a few plays later, and never looked back in a Maryville blowout victory. Maryville was up 14-0 before Alcoa was even out of the locker room. Tennessee needs a killer instinct. George Quarles could be Fulmerâ’s hit man.
The critics will say Quarles doesnâ’t have enough experience to handle a chore like UT. I like Quarlesâ’ response when I threw the possibility of college coaching at him. â“The players are bigger and faster but itâ’s still football. I feel confident I could do it,â” Quarles said.
And hereâ’s what Tennessee needs to do. Somehow, someway, create an offensive position for Quarles where he could learn the ropes of, and augment, Cutcliffeâ’s UT offense.
Some people reading this no doubt think Iâ’m off my rocker, because they would say Quarles doesnâ’t have enough experience. I would say from watching Tennesseeâ’s stagnant product all season that they have too many miles on the tires. As ESPN.comâ’s Chris Low recently told me on the air, â“I donâ’t want this to be taken the wrong way, but Tennessee has become an old staff. They could use some new blood.â”
So how about going one county over to find some? Four consecutive state titles. Six overall. Thatâ’s not exactly eight for eightâ"that would be the career passing mark of Maryville wide receiver Stephen Shiver. Thatâ’s right, Shiver, a receiver, is a perfect eight for eight through the air for his career after completing a touchdown pass in the championship game versus Maplewood. (Five of those option passes were complete for touchdowns.) It was vintage Quarles in what was a one-touchdown game late in the third quarter. George Quarlesâ’ football is both fundamental and fun to watch.
When Randall Cobb says yes, Tennessee needs to get on the horn with Quarles and let Blount County bring Tennessee into the next century in offensive college football. We are, after all, seven years into the new century. It sure would be great for Tennessee to have a G.Q. look on offense going forward.
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