David Climer / The Tennessean
Riley Ferguson, the anointed savior of Tennessee Vols football, is transferring elsewhere.
Woe is UT.
Well, not so much.
For those late to the story, Ferguson is the best quarterback never to play a down in the SEC. Seldom has so much been expected of someone who has done so little.
Ferguson spent his first season with the Vols as a redshirt but his legend grew with each game he missed, thanks in part to the shortcomings of UT's other quarterbacks and the unbridled hope that someone — anyone — eventually would come to the rescue.
PREVIOUSLY: Vols lose Riley Ferguson
PREVIOUSLY: UT waits for QB to emerge
Now he's transferring, UT coach Butch Jones said, a development that sent some Vols fans to the nearest ledge.
Remember all those quarterbacks who transferred out of UT and hit it big elsewhere?
Neither do I.
OK, there have been a few guys who had some success once they transferred. But none of them really left the Vols in a lurch at quarterback. While each left for varying reasons, none was positioned for stardom at UT when he hit the road.
Steve Matthews, from Tullahoma, signed with UT in 1989 and redshirted his first year before playing sparingly as a backup to Andy Kelly in 1990. Matthews transferred to Memphis, where he finished his college career and put up big numbers.
ut it's not like the departure of Matthews, now football coach at Knoxville Catholic High, left the Vols high and dry at quarterback. After Kelly graduated, Heath Shuler stepped in. Matthews merely saw the writing on the wall — in the form of a depth chart.
Although he split snaps with a fellow freshman in 1994, Branndon Stewart took stock of his situation and transferred to Texas A&M, where he had a nice career and was 23-11 as a starter. But the other quarterback in that freshman class at UT proved to be a bit better. Some guy named Manning.
(Interesting aside: Stewart's high school coach in Stephenville, Texas, was Art Briles, who currently is working wonders at Baylor. Stewart and Briles were inducted into the Texas High School Sports Hall of Fame in the same class in 2008.)
Brent Schaeffer started UT's opening game in 2004 over fellow freshman Erik Ainge and certainly had a few electric moments for the Vols but had trouble staying out of trouble and ultimately left school.
After a side trip to junior college in California, Schaeffer landed at Ole Miss, where his most enduring impact is as a name in the musical parody about the Ed Orgeron coaching reign of error — "Colonel Reb Is Crying."
B.J. Coleman left after spring practice in 2009. He finished his college career at Chattanooga in his hometown and ultimately was a seventh-round draft pick by the Packers. At UT, though, Coleman could not get past Jonathan Crompton on the depth chart.
Nick Stephens hit the road in 2010 because he wanted to start for someone as a college senior. He landed at Tarleton State in Texas and since has bounced on and off a few NFL rosters. He was in the Titans' training camp in 2012 and was on the Ravens' practice squad last season.
Nick Lamaison, whose recruitment out of junior college to UT never made sense to begin with, transferred after the 2010 season. Hardly anyone noticed.
In 2012, Nash Nance, who came to UT with high school teammate Da'Rick Rogers, transferred to Hampden-Sydney. Enough said.
Now it's Ferguson, who is leaving for parts unknown and reasons untold. So be it. At age 19, he is free to change his mind at the drop of a football. For one reason or another, he's decided UT is not the place for him and has chosen to look elsewhere. Farewell and good luck.
What now? Ferguson's decision leaves UT with three scholarship quarterbacks — senior Justin Worley and sophomores Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman. No Heisman Trophy campaigns are in the works.
Moving forward, it is a position of need. Frankly, it's a position of need right now.
Jones' stated philosophy is to sign at least one quarterback per recruiting class and sometimes two. But the Vols came up empty at the position in the Class of 2014. Of the 11 early commitments in the next recruiting class, none projects as a quarterback in college, although the Vols are in hot pursuit of a couple.
In time, things will come into focus. As for Riley Ferguson, he's out of the picture. And history tells us that's not necessarily a bad thing.
David Climer's columns appear on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 615-259-8020 and on Twitter @DavidClimer.