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ESPN 300 QB Riley Ferguson talks Vols

11/14/2012

Riley Ferguson (Matthews, N.C./Butler) isn't worried about a potential coaching change at Tennessee.

Sure, he'd like to play for the coaches he has grown to know so well, namely coach Derek Dooley, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and running backs coach Jay Graham, who has been his primary recruiter. However, Ferguson picked Tennessee in June for more reasons than just a coaching staff.

"It really doesn't affect me," the ESPN 300 quarterback said of the turmoil in Knoxville concerning Dooley's future. "I'm going there for the school not just the coaches. The coaches are a reason I'm going there but if there's a coaching change, I'm still going to most likely going to go there because of the school, how I liked it when I was there, the people that were there and the atmosphere."

That's good new for Tennessee, regardless of who's coaching. Ferguson is Tennessee's highest-rated commitment for the 2013 class. He is the No. 211 overall prospect in the nation, the sixth-best prospect in North Carolina and the No. 15 overall quarterback in the country.

In 2012, Tennessee is 4-6 and 0-6 in the SEC. That has led to widespread criticism of Dooley.

"They haven't really been talking about it much," Ferguson said of his discussions with the UT staff. "They've just really been talking about me being focused on school right now. I'm just trying to get up there as much as possible to build my relationship with the coaches and stuff. They're showing me around campus but haven't really said anything about the coaches."

Ferguson was in Knoxville last weekend to see the Vols' 51-48 overtime loss to Missouri, which was Tennessee's fifth loss in six games. Despite the defeat, Ferguson came away optimistic.

"I like the atmosphere and everything," he said. "I liked how their [offensive] tempo was. They throw it a lot with Coach Chaney. Their offense is putting up points. Their defense just couldn't get a stop when they went into overtime. That's what we needed more than anything and it just didn't happen. It just slipped away from them."

In fact, the offense has been exemplary in the midst of a disappointing season. The Vols rank 15th in the nation in total offense and sixth in passing offense. That will certainly catch a quarterback's eye.

"That is really exciting for me," Ferguson said. "Everything is going on offense. They have an explosive offense. I like that a lot. I guess the team chemistry is just kind of messing them up right now. Once they get together I think they'll be fine. It's just a couple of little things here and there."

Ferguson said he hasn't heard from many other schools since he committed to Tennessee. That makes sense for a couple of reasons.

First, with quarterbacks often committing well before their senior season, many schools already have their chosen one in the fold. Second, Ferguson has been plagued by two injuries to his throwing hand, which has limited his ability to showcase his talent to recruiters from other schools.

"I'm still getting mail from some schools but they're not trying to recruit me anymore," the 6-foot-2, 190-pound signal-caller said.

Ferguson's absence from the field could have been longer -- he said doctors told him that his latest injury often requires season-ending surgery. Instead, he was ready to play when his cast was removed in October.

"I got out of my cast and I was throwing and throwing fine," he said when asked how his accuracy was affected. "It hasn't affected anything."