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December 22, 2010

Worley takes wins over ranking

MORE WORLEY: Shrine video | Shrine recap

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern quarterback Justin Worley put up incredible statistics in a phenomenal high school career, capped by an undefeated season and a state championship.

Yet, he's still ranked as just a three-star pro-style QB?

"You just have to take that with a grain of salt," Worley said with a smile. "I guess if I put up numbers that help the team then that doesn't really matter. It's fine with me."

There are questions about his mechanics and his delivery, sure, but Worley, who committed to Tennessee in July, completed 429-of-590 passes (73 percent) for 5,315 yards with 64 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year.

Those numbers weren't a fluke.

The 6-foot-4, 196-pounder had 4,366 yards and 42 touchdowns in his junior season and 3,641 passing yards and 50 touchdowns as a sophomore.

That's 13,322 yards and 156 TDs in only three varsity seasons at Northwestern.

Rivals.com rates Worley as the No. 30 pro-style quarterback in the 2011 class and No. 19 in the South Carolina rankings.

But he doesn't seem any more motivated by what some Tennessee fans have bellyached for months about being a low-ball rating.

Worley, recently named the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, is being polite and letting his abilities do the talking. People can make their own judgments about his game.

"I kind of have to take (the Gatorade award) more as a team thing because I couldn't have won that without my teammates and coaches," Worley said. "It was great but it's not everything. Winning that state championship was probably the biggest thing in my mind.

"It's great knowing that those touchdown passes put up points for our team. It helped other players too like Robert Joseph, one of our receivers, had 20 touchdowns last year and 25 this year receiving so he has huge numbers, too, along with me. Guys like that really helped me put those numbers up."

Worley became the state's single-season leader in touchdown passes as a senior and plans to enroll early at Tennessee to get a jump during spring practice.

The Volunteers struggled at quarterback this season with Matt Simms and Tyler Bray, neither striking much fear in many SEC opponents.

Each was around 1,500 passing yards with Simms throwing eight touchdowns and five picks and Bray totaling 14 scores and seven interceptions.

It's much too early to tell if Worley can arrive in Knoxville and take over the starting duties. He'll certainly get his opportunities early as Tennessee's offense tries to find an identity.

Worley is excited about his future with the Volunteers, excited to join a quarterback fraternity that includes Peyton Manning, Heath Shuler, Casey Clausen, Tee Martin and other high-profile names throughout the years.

Whether he's No. 1 or No. 100 in the rankings, Worley hopes his success on the high school field continues in Knoxville.

"With their new coaching staff I really clicked with them and I really enjoyed spending time with them," Worley said. "Knoxville is a great town. I really like it there and I really like their campus and what they have to offer as a football program and a school.

"They've had good quarterbacks in the past and they know how to deal with quarterbacks there and know how to coach them."



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