Keller Chryst or Jarrett Guarantano? My preseason pick to be Tennessee's starting quarterback ...
If you’re surprised that Keller Chryst is a strong favorite to start the season for Tennessee, don’t be. The writing is on the wall.
Some fans and media types were taken aback when Chryst was named a strong favorite by BetDSI Sportsbook to wrestle the starting job away from sophomore Jarrett Guarantano. Those odds might surprise some, but Chryst has long been my pick to be UT’s starting quarterback this fall.
First, UT’s offense under Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton is better suited for Chryst than Guarantano.
“(It’s) a West coast style of offense,” Vols receiver Marquez Callaway said at SEC Media Days, “so we’re trying to just learn this offense to perfection and really trying to perfect our craft in the offense so there won’t be any mistakes in the season.”
UT’s offensive approach is much different from what the Vols ran under former coach Butch Jones. Guarantano was thought to be a perfect fit for Jones’ zone read offense. He’s likely not a perfect fit for a West coast offense. Chryst ran a similar offense before he graduated from Stanford and transferred to UT. It’s also worth noting that Callaway isn’t sure of the direction of UT’s offense. That makes me think Tennessee’s coaches kept things vanilla until they knew what they had with Chryst.
Here’s another reason to think Chryst will be UT’s starter: The Vols showed their hand. UT’s coaches were desperate to sign a graduate transfer quarterback. UT heavily pursued Chryst, Gardner Minshew and Alex Thomson before settling on Chryst. That should tell you all you need to know about what UT’s coaches thought about Guarantano based off video study after they were hired.
Lastly, and probably most important, Guarantano just doesn’t seem like a Pruitt guy. His sideline antics during the Georgia Tech game last season wouldn’t sit well with the new coaching staff’s no-nonsense approach. If Guarantano does win the starting job during preseason camp, it seems a matter of time until Guarantano and Pruitt have issues, especially if the season doesn’t go well.
To be clear, Pruitt and his staff don’t have an easy choice since neither quarterback has proven he can be a long-term starting quarterback. Guarantano started six games last season and played in nine. Chryst, after being injured, lost his job last season to Stanford sophomore K.J. Costello.
I’m certainly not ruling out Chryst or Guarantano. Both quarterbacks have accuracy issues. Chryst has completed 56.3 percent of his passes in his career. Guarantano completed 62 percent of his passes last season. The two both have posted a passer rating of 129 throughout their career.
In this case, the Vols are simply trying to get through a season of transition and have as much success as possible before naming their quarterback of the future.
It’s hard to imagine Guarantano being that guy despite his lofty high school ranking. His skill set just doesn’t fit what the Vols are trying to do. However, if he can fully grasp the UT’s new offense and prove to be a leader, that would be a huge addition for the foreseeable future considering he has three years of eligibility remaining. That might happen, but I just don’t see it.
My prediction is Chryst will be the starting quarterback sooner rather than later. Whether Chryst starts the season opener is hard to predict because he’s only been on campus this summer. Guarantano had the advantage of participating in spring practice.
For the Guarantano supporters out there, it’s a good thing that he didn’t transfer following the spring semester. That’s at least a sign that he believes he can play in UT’s new offense. However, despite his spring head start, I expect Chryst to eventually get on the field and be named a starter. That will force Guarantano to make a tough decision following this season.