Waiting game over: Guarantano primed for Tennessee spotlight
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It can be a hard task for any young man to endure being a top high school prospect entering a top college football program.
The transition can take time for many, coinciding with the anticipation of wanting to compete at a high level.
For Jarrett Guarantano, a former 4-star prospect from Bergen Catholic in Oradell, N.J., he made his way to the SEC.
He then waited his turn behind four-year starting quarterback Josh Dobbs, redshirting his first season he was eligible to play in 2016.
“I think he handled it great,” Guarantano’s high school head coach, Nunzio Campanile, told Saturday Down South of his former quarterback.
Campanile recognized that Guarantano “understood that” when he committed to Tennessee he would be sitting behind Dobbs. But Campanile’s high school quarterback did not waiver regarding the opportunity to play in the SEC and at Tennessee.
Frustration can sink in for players just watching the game they have played for years, but Guarantano handled his redshirt 2016 season in a mature way to make himself better.
“While it’s probably frustrating to go through that for the first time in your life, he also knew from when he was in high school that was probably going to be the No. 1 part of his growth process,” Campanile said.
Tennessee sports betting officially launched on November 1, 2020. Tennessee was the first SEC state to legalize sports betting.
“I’m sure it was frustrating at times, but it was good for him.”
Guarantano’s excitement from the recruiting trail as a player with potential to take a program like Tennessee to a championship level was felt early on in his high school career.
He also had his father, James, a former Rutgers wide receiver (1989-92) who ranks sixth all-time in career receptions (158) and eighth in career receiving yards (2,065) for the Scarlet Knights, to help guide him through the journey of reaching the SEC. During James Guarantano’s college days, Vols head coach Butch Jones spent time at Rutgers as a graduate assistant (1990-92). New Tennessee strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson held the same role at Rutgers (1990-92).
“I think first of all his dad was a great player and had been through a lot of it, he has kind of been groomed for it much of his high school career,” Campanile said. “He kind of knew what he was getting into.
“He always handled it pretty well and obviously a circus at times, but he handled it well and also understood that once he found a good fit for himself, he stayed the course. He got it over with early enough in his junior year so he could focus on getting better.”
Part of the circus atmosphere that came with Guarantano’s recruitment process ended with an announcement in New York’s Times Square, when he committed to the Vols on April 15, 2015.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 15, 2015
Campanile thinks his former quarterback will “do a great job” at Tennessee, now that he has more of an opportunity to step on the field.
Readiness comes with the ability to handle the media, the pressure and magnitude of SEC high-level games and everything else that comes with being a quarterback for a program like Tennessee.
“I think he’s used to a lot of the media attention, he’s been dealing with that for a long time,” Campanile continued. “He played in some pressure-packed games in high school. It’s hard to simulate 100,000 people inside the stadium like you have at Tennessee, but he’s used to being in big games, he’s used to being in tight spots, he’s used to having a lot of pressure on him. He’ll do fine.”
— Jarrett Guarantano✞ (@JayGuarantano) December 4, 2015
Guarantano committed to Tennessee months after Jones hired offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. Following Guarantano’s redshirt freshman 2016 season, DeBord contemplated retirement and eventually took the same position at Indiana, where he is for 2017.
DeBord mostly ran offensive plays from the shotgun at Tennessee and Campanile does not think any changes in the Volunteer offense under newly promoted offensive coordinator Larry Scott will have any negative impact.
Campanile says that his former quarterback has “a lot of versatility that will serve him well” in any formations, including under center.
“We ran a lot of spread stuff,” he said. “I like to consider us a multiple offense, he was mostly in the shotgun a lot. He was definitely considered a dual-threat type of player. He was a great runner, but he could also stand in there and throw.”