When Tennessee made the choice to bench redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano for true freshman Brian Maurer heading into the Georgia game, many read it as somewhat of a panic move by Jeremy Pruitt and his staff.

Turns out, Tennessee may have something special in the freshman from Florida.

If you missed it, Maurer began his first career college start by throwing a 73-yard touchdown strike to Marquez Callaway that ignited Neyland Stadium and had Tennessee fans on their feet for much of the first half against the Bulldogs. Maurer finished the game completing 14 of 28 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

At one point, the freshman even gave Tennessee an early 14-10 lead over the Bulldogs.

While Jeremy Pruitt wanted to reserve most of his praise of Maurer immediately after the game, the Tennessee coach offered some complimentary thoughts on the freshman’s performance against Georgia’s defense after reviewing the film.

“I thought he had really good energy, done some nice things, especially early on,” Pruitt said on Monday. “Made some really, really nice throws, got the ball out of his hand. But he also made some mistakes. Probably should have handed the ball off a couple of times, made some incorrect reads there.

“In the second half, a couple of times he worked the wrong side of the field. Made probably a poor decision when he threw the interception down there and they ran the cat blitz there – we have got to have control of the corner in that protection. There are way more positives than negatives but he’s got to learn from them and not make the same mistakes again. So, but he did step in and make some nice throws and I thought our kids rallied around him pretty good there.”

Tennessee’s coach then, for the most part, slammed the door on any talk of a quarterback competition in Knoxville. Here’s what Pruitt said when asked if Maurer would start Saturday against Mississippi State.

“We are going to see how this week goes. I think he’d have to have a bad week of practice not to,” Pruitt noted. “But we will see how the week goes.”

When asked to expound on the performance of his freshman signal-caller, Pruitt noted how quickly Maurer got the ball out of his hand on Saturday, which is something Guaranatano has struggled with for much of his career on Rocky Top.

“I think Brian just got the ball out of his hand, like he needed to. He knew what side of the field he was working, made quick decisions and done it — let the ball loose,” he continued. “There were probably a couple of times where if he had held it for a count or two, we had other guys breaking open but you have to have a clock in your head as a quarterback. You can’t sit back there and hold the ball. I thought he done a nice job for the most part.”

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Sports betting in Tennessee officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.