Quinten Dormady is struggling, but Jarrett Guarantano isn't playing. Why, Butch?
KNOXVILLE — Four games into the 2017 season and Tennessee is still struggling to find answers at the quarterback position.
The way the position has been handled is questionable.
Junior Quinten Dormady waited behind four-year starter Josh Dobbs, who has moved on to the NFL. Sheriron Jones transferred in June, making the race officially between Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano.
Fifth-year coach Butch Jones opened SEC Media Days in July mentioning that he was considering a two-quarterback system.
“If both players earn their right to play, we’ll play both quarterbacks,” Jones said in July. “I’ve been in systems where we’ve been able to do that, and really, Quinten and Jarrett’s skill sets are very similar to each other.”
Jones called his offense one “that really can play to the skill sets of the quarterback and all of the players around.”
There’s an adage: If you have two quarterbacks, you have none. Jones views it as “a good problem to have.”
Jones’ talk of using a two-quarterback system continued throughout fall camp and into opening week against Georgia Tech.
But his plan for both quarterbacks did not match what actually took place: Dormady was only 8-for-20 in the first half on opening night and the offense struggled on the way to a 14-7 halftime deficit.
Before game day, Jones said that he thought “circumstances of the game comes into play” and that one’s playing time is based around “your rhythm on offense” and the game would be one of “where your possessions will be limited.”
“There’s teams that have had 20 plays at halftime, and seven or eight plays in a quarter,” he said. “I think it’s in the flow of the game more so than the deservingness to play both, because they are very deserving, they have worked exceptionally hard.
“It’s which individual gives you the best opportunity. We have great confidence in both of them.”
Guarantano never saw the field against Tech, even following the dreadful first half performance from Dormady. That contradicted Jones’ stated plan, especially in a game where a new QB could have provided a spark.
During the short week with Indiana State in Week 2, Jones repeated his intentions of playing both quarterbacks.
“Again, we have two very, very quality quarterbacks,” Jones said. “And for us, you know, we’re gonna need to play both quarterbacks. I think you see the dynamics, again, that surround college football, and you need more than one quarterback. So, again, it’s getting Jarrett the ample reps that he needs to perform on Saturdays, along with Quinten.”
Jones rotated his quarterbacks against FCS Indiana State and Guarantano finished 4-for-12, 41 yards and one touchdown. Dormady finished 13-for-18, 194 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Guarantano didn’t play well against Indiana State, but it wasn’t so poor that he took himself out of the equation the next week at Florida, if the Vols struggled offensively.
But that’s what happened. Guarantano, except for one play that was nullified by a penalty, watched Dormady throw three interceptions in the loss to the Gators.
Jones has continued to discuss playing both quarterbacks, even though Dormady has received the green light to start and finish the two most crucial games this season – versus Georgia Tech and at Florida.
Dormady’s play has opened the door for second-guessing and growing criticism about how Jones is handling the position.
Is Jones showing favoritism toward Dormady? If so, why?
Last week against UMass, Jones did not call on Guarantano until 2:46 remaining in the third quarter with only a 17-13 lead. Once again, the manner in how Jones handled the timing of playing Guarantano is questionable after saying last week “we’d like to” play him and that he has “earned the right to play some.”
Jones said post-game that he inserted Guarantano late in the game “looking for a spark.”
With Dormady struggling again, playing Guarantano earlier in the game could have provided a spark and allowed his teammates to play with passion, something Dormady has not been able to get out of his teammates.
Dormady’s stranglehold on the starting job is questionable to say the least four games into the season.
Neither quarterback has separated himself from the other, but Dormady continues to get the most opportunities to do so.
That seems odd, given all of the things Jones has said and continues to say about both.