March 7, 2009

Injury expected to impact UT QB derby

Tennessee junior quarterback Nick Stephens is expected to be either severely limited or miss a significant portion of the Volunteers' upcoming spring camp with an undisclosed hand or wrist injury, numerous sources confirmed to

A 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pounder from Flower Mound, Texas, Stephens started five games last season for Tennessee and appeared in seven contests in passing for 840 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He logged a 2-3 mark as starter, with wins against Northern Illinois and Mississippi State.

The Vols open their first-ever camp under new head coach Lane Kiffin on Tuesday, and Stephens was expected to battle alongside senior Jonathan Crompton and sophomore B.J. Coleman for the starting job.

Sources told that Stephens is in a cast and could potentially miss four weeks or more of practice time, depending on recovery time for the injury.

Obviously, the quarterback derby is one of the biggest question marks, if not the biggest heading into spring practice. Everywhere Kiffin has gone he has asked about his quarterbacks. His message has been that he will not offer a timetable on naming a starter and he has asked for patience from everyone.

"I think it's similar to when I was hired and we discussed the coaching staff," Kiffin said in mid-February. "I told everyone to be patient and that we were going to do it right and not necessarily fast. The same thing with the quarterbacks. Be patient with them and don't make judgments on these kids. Everyone wants to say they haven't played well before or they can't play. They aren't smart enough or they don't have a big enough arm. Hold on. We haven't coached them for one day in our system. Let's give them a chance to see what they can do."

Tennessee is scheduled for three practices this week, including its first intrasquad scrimmage on Friday night at Neyland Stadium. The Vols then adjourn for spring break and resume practice on March 24. UT concludes spring camp in six weeks with the Orange & White game on April 18.

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