Tennessee football: Do Vols have a quarterback decision?
There were plenty of things to talk about when Tennessee’s football team stumbled to an 0-2 start.
Why were the Vols poorly aligned on defense far too often? Why did the Vols play so many offensive linemen? Was there an actual coup in place for UT’s head coaching job?
While those questions are still largely unanswered, there’s a new query to add to the list: Is UT’s coaching staff considering a change at quarterback?
It’s a reasonable question after the Vols played three quarterbacks in the first half during Saturday’s 45-0 win over Chattanooga. UT decided to trout out J.T. Shrout and Brian Mauer when the game was still competitive. The results were mixed.
“They both did some good things today and they both also made some horrible decisions today but that’s expected,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said after the game. “Today was their first opportunities, which is why we’ve been wanting to get them out there.”
Meanwhile, UT’s presumed starter, Jarrett Guarantano, did all he could do to impress UT’s coaching staff and keep his job. Guarantano completed 7 of 8 pass attempts for 142 yards and three touchdowns against Chattanooga. It was easy to pile on Guarantano last week after a shaky performance against BYU. Now, he situation is a little more complicated.
The Vols may have the next young, superstar quarterback in Shrout or Maurer. UT could have the next Peyton Manning on their roster. For now, that doesn’t matter. UT is fighting for respectability and bowl eligibility. After an 0-2 start, the Vols need both. Guarantano can provide that.
Debut dive. 🤝
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) September 14, 2019
Never mind how many touchdown passes Guarantano completes this season. Be more mindful of how many interceptions he throws. The Vols simply can’t overcome significant mistakes as they enter their SEC schedule. UT’s roster isn’t good enough to overcome an inconsistent quarterback.
As for Guarantano, he can’t be worried about making a mistake. It’s odd that UT’s coaches haven’t recognized that. Instead, they’ve created a quarterback competition.
Guarantano’s challenge is mighty moving forward. He has to fend off some of the best defenses in the nation, starting with a game at Florida this week.
When asked about the quarterback situation, Pruitt said, “Well, I think you guys probably give yourselves more credit than you deserve. The rest of us, we’re not really worried about what you say when it comes to our quarterback and all of that. So, we just went business as usual.
“Jarrett is our quarterback and he’ll be our quarterback until we decide that he’s not. He deserves to be our quarterback. He’s outplayed everybody and as far as playing the other guys, we’ve been wanting to do that since the first game.”
That’s not an overly confident endorsement. Perhaps Guarantano doesn’t deserve as much. Whether or not his coaches believe in him, he’s the best chance for Tennessee to salvage this season. It will be interesting to see if Pruitt is completely sold on Guarantano — or anyone else.
“The guys that have been here for three and four years have not had a lot of success and they need it,” Pruitt said. “We have a lot of guys that are young guys in our locker room that are used to winning. Maybe some of our older guys were used to it when they were in high school.
“The one thing that you never want to get to is to a place where not winning doesn’t bother you. It bothers me. I can’t sleep at night, and I probably make everyone in our building miserable because of it. I know I do at home, but we have to get our players to a point where that’s the way they are, and I think we have a lot of them in our program that are that way.”
After two embarrassing losses to start the season, Pruitt needs to sleep at night. A win against Chattanooga won’t fluff the pillows. Beating Florida would. Guarantano is Pruitt’s best chance to do so.