KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Butch Jones apparently is using the same bit of gamesmanship as Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson regarding their quarterback situations heading into their season-opening matchup.
Jones hasn't named a starter for Monday's game at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium but acknowledges he has ''a pretty good idea'' who will take the Volunteers' opening snap. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said earlier in the week that he also had chosen his starting quarterback but didn't want to reveal his selection.
Both coaches are working every possible angle to get an edge as they attempt to replace productive longtime starting quarterbacks. Whether keeping the results of a quarterback competition secret from the general public actually works as a strategy is up for debate.
''Through video study and everything that goes into it, we have a pretty good idea who the quarterback will be for us, and we have a pretty good idea who the quarterback will be for them as well,'' Jones said.
Tennessee has junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano competing to replace Pittsburgh Steelers fourth-round draft pick Joshua Dobbs, who started 35 games over the last four seasons. Dormady backed up Dobbs the last two seasons and performed exceptionally in the spring game, but Tennessee coaches have never indicated whether anyone has an edge in the competition.
Georgia Tech's depth chart lists juniors Matthew Jordan and TaQuon Marshall and redshirt freshmen Lucas Johnson and Jay Jones as potential starters. Jordan is the most experienced of the four and led the Yellow Jackets to a victory over Virginia Tech last season when former Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas was injured.
''I think I could call the game for any of them,'' Johnson said. ''We've tried to highlight what each of them do and go from there, and that's why I'm not in any big hurry to tell everybody who it is. We may play all four of them in the first game. Who knows?''
The uncertain quarterback situations at both schools reflect a major change from the last few years.
Thomas was a three-year starter and the first three-time team captain in Georgia Tech history. Dobbs had 9,360 yards in career total offense to rank third on Tennessee's all-time list.
Their replacements remain pretty much untested, aside from Jordan's performance against Virginia Tech last year.
Marshall's a converted running back who appeared in only two games as a reserve quarterback last season for Georgia Tech. Dormady is 24 of 39 for 357 yards in 10 career games but has generally appeared late in one-sided contests. Guarantano and the two redshirt freshmen for Georgia Tech haven't played at all.
''We have great confidence in our quarterbacks,'' Jones said. ''We've tried to put them in every game-like situation you can from a management standpoint, from a decision-making standpoint. They're prepared, and I know they're anxious and ready to play.''
The Vols also could miss the versatility of Dobbs, who rushed for a team-high 831 yards and 12 touchdowns last season while gaining 5 + yards per carry. Guarantano is considered the more mobile of Tennessee's potential Dobbs successors, though he lacks Dormady's experience.
Tennessee has left open the possibility of playing both Dormady and Guarantano in the season opener, though Jones said that could prove difficult because Georgia Tech's triple-option attack often limits the number of possessions for each team. Tight end Ethan Wolf says ''there's not really a major difference'' in the dynamic of the offense whether it's Dormady or Guarantano behind center.
''They're both excellent players,'' Wolf said.
The Vols are pretty sure which of those players will get the first shot to run Tennessee's offense. They just don't want anyone else to know until Monday.