Tennessee football: Power ranking the Vols' QB options for 2021
Think you have a good handle on Tennessee’s QB options for 2021? Well, you don’t.
Hey. I’m not judging. I know I don’t. I’m not sure Tennessee’s coaching staff does, either.
There are 4 quarterbacks who have taken snaps for the Vols this season. Next year, 1 of those guys might be gone. Or more. Or none. Or all 4 will be back, plus an addition from Texas. I think.
The Vols’ quarterback situation is as clear as mud. The following is 1 man’s opinion on Tennessee’s best bets at the most important position in football.
5. Jarrett Guarantano
First of all, don’t kill the messenger.
Guarantano is a 5th-year senior, but due to the NCAA extending the offer for all student-athletes to get 1 more year of eligibility. we have to include him on this list. It isn’t likely, but it is possible that Guarantano returns for a 6th year.
He has started 32 games for the Vols, throwing for 6,174 yards and 38 touchdowns. But throughout Guarantano’s Tennessee career, he has made more head-scratching mistakes than are acceptable for an SEC quarterback. This season alone, he has thrown 3 pick-6’s.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt has said time and time again that Guarantano has been his starter because, in his opinion, he has given Tennessee the best chance to win. There’s a scenario in which Guarantano stays on scholarship and outpaces the other guys in the quarterback room in 2021.
Imagine the dumpster fire that local sports talk radio in Knoxville would be if that happens!
4. Kaidon Salter
The 4-star prospect from Cedar Hill, Texas, is considered by 247Sports to be the 6th-best dual-threat QB in this class. Salter is still being wooed by other schools, but he says that he is planning to sign with Tennessee on Dec. 16. Salter chose the Vols over Auburn back in the summer, and he hasn’t publicly wavered from that decision.
Salter looks to be more mobile than the quarterbacks currently on Tennessee’s roster. According to MaxPreps, in 26 high school games, he has rushed for 1,058 yards. If that carries over to the college ranks, it would give the Vols something they’ve been lacking in recent years.
3. Brian Maurer
The sophomore from Ocala, Fla., has an absolute cannon for a right arm. We learned that when he hit Marquez Callaway on a 73-yard touchdown pass against Georgia in 2019, Maurer’s first completion at Neyland Stadium.
He ended up starting 4 games last year as a true freshman, playing in 8 of the Vols’ 13 contests. But this season, he has been a missing man. Maurer was limited by a hamstring injury back in September, and he has played in only 3 games and thrown only 6 passes.
I’m putting Maurer above Salter because we have no idea what to expect from a kid who hasn’t even picked up the key to his dorm room. But Maurer doesn’t appear to be in the plans for this staff. He’s a candidate for transfer heading into 2021.
2. J.T. Shrout
Shrout would have been near the bottom of this listing had it not been for his performance last weekend against Florida.
I know. I know. It was in the 4th quarter of a game that had been decided long before. But the redshirt sophomore led the Vols on 2 touchdown drives, connecting on 12 of 14 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Prior to that game, he had thrown a grand total of 1 pass this season … and it was an interception against Kentucky.
Shrout looked confident. The final 2 games of the season will likely serve as an audition.
1. Harrison Bailey
He’s the future of the Tennessee football program. Which makes it maddening that we haven’t seen him very much.
Bailey didn’t get a typical head start. He arrived in campus in January but was limited, with most of spring practice being canceled.
Tennessee fans have been clamoring to see more of Bailey for most of the season. They finally got their wish last weekend, when he got his 1st career start against Florida. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. The 11-play, 96-yard scoring drive in the 2nd quarter gave us a glimpse of the talent he possesses.
As with Shrout, the final 2 games of the season should serve as an audition. For now, I’m giving Bailey the edge heading into the offseason.
No matter how this shakes out, if Tennessee doesn’t get better quarterback play, they’ll continue to struggle in the SEC.