It had to be done.

If Tennessee entered the 2018 season without an addition via a graduate transfer quarterback, it would have been a tough way to kick off the Jeremy Pruitt era. That’s not to say that Jarrett Guarantano can’t get better and become a steady SEC starting quarterback, but he couldn’t be the primary option. Butch Jones’ offense or not, Guarantano still only threw 4 touchdown passes last year.

A roster that featured Guarantano and sophomore-to-be Will McBride as the only scholarship quarterbacks looked, to be frank, frightening.

Keller Chryst was the No. 3-ranked pro-style QB in 2014. The top two? SEC alums Kyle Allen and Will Grier.

But fear not, Tennessee fans. Keller Chryst is coming to Knoxville for his final season of college.

News that the former Stanford quarterback picked Tennessee had to be a big sigh of relief for the Vols fans who kept their eyes open in 2017. Those who witnessed the mess that was the Tennessee offense — the one that ranked No. 124 of 129 in FBS — couldn’t have been optimistic that a new coaching staff was going to flip that script with the same personnel.

In the short-term, Chryst was arguably a more crucial get than any recruit the Vols missed out on in the 2018 class. A veteran who can help Tennessee at the game’s most important position was an absolute necessity to dig the program out of the trench it finds itself in.

Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

To be clear, nobody is saying that Chryst is going to step into the starting job and become Russell Wilson. I mean, there’s a reason that Chryst left Palo Alto in the first place. He squandered his chance at keeping the starting job. Completing 54 percent of passes for 6.7 yards per attempt will do that to a guy. K.J. Costello proved to be the better option, and he returns in 2018.

To compare Chryst to Wilson, who had 76 career touchdown passes before he got to Madison, would be lunacy. But there is one interesting link between the two that Tennessee fans could find interesting.

In Wilson’s unprecedented season at Wisconsin in 2011 when he threw for 33 touchdowns and completed 73 percent of his passes for 3,175 yards, who was his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach? Paul Chryst, who is now the head coach of the Badgers. He also happens to be the uncle of Keller Chryst.

Who knows? Maybe Uncle Paul has the secret sauce for molding graduate transfer quarterbacks and he shares it with his nephew.

Maybe Chryst’s new offensive coordinator has the secret sauce for quarterbacks. As everyone knows, Tyson Helton was USC’s quarterbacks coach for the 2 years that Sam Darnold was Sam Darnold. And while everyone is now debating if Darnold should be the No. 1 overall pick, he was once just another 4-star quarterback recruit from California. So was Chryst. In fact, Chryst was the No. 51 player overall in the 2014 class while Darnold was No. 148 in the 2015 squad.

This was once an actual take:

Obviously Darnold developed into a much better Jameis Winston comp than Chryst. Maybe some of that was coaching.

Helton got the offensive coordinator job at Tennessee because of what he did with Darnold. But don’t forget that before arriving at USC, Helton spent 2 years as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Kentucky. Why is that significant? Well, Helton coached Brandon Doughty. The former 3-star recruit threw for just shy of 10,000 yards during that 2-year stretch.

Not to take anything away from the work of then-WKU head coach Jeff Brohm, USC coach Clay Helton or even former Vol quarterback and current USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin, but Ty Helton was the common denominator of some pretty impressive quarterback seasons the past 4 years.

That had to be one of the big reasons Tennessee was attractive for Chryst. He and Helton will both come from the Pac-12 to the SEC in hopes of making it another year of productive quarterback play. Chryst isn’t Darnold and he might not even be Doughty, but as we’ve seen so often with quarterbacks, surroundings often dictate success.

Chryst's career numbers: 160-for-289, 1,926 yards, 19 TDs, 6 INTs

There’s no way to accurately project how successful Chryst can be with Helton. The sample size for recent graduate transfer quarterbacks in the SEC is extremely small because it took until 2017 for the conference to tweak its graduate transfer system for lesser penalties against those who fail to meet the program’s academic standards.

Thanks, Malik Zaire.

Tennessee fans hope that Chryst isn’t just another Zaire. That is, a guy who came in with a lot of hype despite struggling to win the starting job at a big program … and who then followed a similar path in his lone year in the SEC. Even if Chryst could just be Austin Appleby, who threw for 10 touchdown passes in 9 games (7 starts) and helped Florida earn an SEC East title in 2016 as a graduate transfer, it would be a significant step up.

That’s how bad Tennessee’s passing game was in 2017. Goodness, the Vols weren’t even better at the quarterback position than whatever Florida slopped together last year.

There’s no guarantee that Chryst improves his accuracy and gives the offense a shot in the arm. Shoot, he’s not even a guarantee to win the starting job.

But the Vols would have been foolish not to pitch Chryst hard. Times were even more desperate after East Carolina grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew committed to Alabama after Tennessee recently hosted him. Swinging and missing on Chryst would have been a brutal strikeout to take.

Now it’s up to Chryst and Helton to connect. Only time will tell if they can knock it out of the park in 2018.