It’s not time to panic. It’s not time to overreact. However, it is time to consider another very obvious option.
Tennessee needs to explore other options at quarterback. The Vols should have a good idea what they have in Jarrett Guarantano. He has started every game for UT and played the vast majority of the snaps this season. Meanwhile, Keller Chryst has been mostly relegated to the bench. Guarantano has attempted 93 passes this season. Chryst has thrown 13.
The Vols made Chryst a priority when they persuaded the Stanford graduate transfer to pick Tennessee. Several coaches, including offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, had seen Chryst play well enough in the Pac-12 to give him a chance at UT.
In case you didn’t know, Chryst has played a lot of football. In fact, he’s played more than Guarantano. Chryst has attempted 302 passes in college. Guarantano has attempted 232. Chryst lost his starting job when he suffered a knee injury last season. His backup, K.J. Costello, played well enough to hold onto the starting job. Chryst knew that he needed to find another school if he hoped to be a starter once again. That time might be now.
I’m not saying Chryst is a bona fide upgrade over Guarantano. We really don’t know. It’s worth the gamble since little is at stake.
The Vols clearly aren’t winning the East. A bowl game seems out of reach. They’re next-to-last in the SEC in scoring (26.0) and passing offense (182.8 yards per game). Last season, they were last in the SEC in scoring (19.8) and next-to-last in passing offense (173.7).
Guarantano, a redshirt sophomore, seems to have reached his peak. Now, he might get better, but does anyone see a future All-SEC player taking snaps for the Vols right now? I don’t.
With a bye week, the Vols should give Chryst a serious look. What can it hurt? UT is staring down a historically bad season. Is Guarantano suddenly going to become a savior for 2018? Probably not.
It would be easy to stay status quo. The last thing this Tennessee football team needs is a quarterback controversy.
However … if there’s not contention and some controversy on this team already, then losing has become customary. There has to be angst. Would a quarterback change be any more of a distraction?
For the record, Guarantano’s overall quarterback rating is 135.5. Chryst’s overall quarterback rating in college is 129.9. We’re not talking about a quantum leap of difference between the production of the two. And we’re not talking about bringing a young pup off of the bench. Chryst has actually played much more football than Guarantano.
The first reaction from Tennessee fans is why would the Vols not be playing Chryst if he were better than Guarantano in practice? Well, first of all, this is a a very inexperienced group of coaches at their current level. Second, haven’t UT fans learned it’s not a great idea to blindly believe coaches?
The simple fact is that these Vols have fallen flat this season. That’s not an indictment of Guarantano, but it is reason to shake things up. Chryst might be a better option. Playing him more would be an aggressive move, which would be out of character for this team.
Jeremy Pruitt’s offensive staff continues to play conservative. That hasn’t gotten them anywhere. Maybe Chryst can.