It was reported on Tuesday afternoon that the Vols would be turning to redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano to make his first career start this weekend when the Vols host South Carolina. And the decision to start Guarantano was the right move for the team right now.
Regardless of why the decision was made, the choice to give the offense over to Guarantano for the upcoming game against the Gamecocks was the right call.
Tennessee’s offense has been downright putrid the last two weeks. The Vols managed just 17 points and 319 yards of offense against winless UMass in Week 4 and were shut out and totaled a mere 142 offensive yards against No. 7 Georgia in Week 5.
Nobody on offense, not even running back John Kelly, has had a good past couple weeks for Tennessee. But junior quarterback Quinten Dormady especially has had a rough past few weeks.
Over the past three games, Dormady completed just 52.4 of his 82 pass attempts for 510 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions. Dormady also lost two fumbles in that span. Not only do his stats look bad, but his performance on film does too. The junior has consistently thrown off his back foot, not stepped into his throws, stared down his primary targets, and forced throws into double or triple coverage.
The Vols’ offense desperately needs a spark, a change, something to get it going again. And a change at quarterback could do just that.
Granted, Jarrett Guarantano hasn’t exactly looked explosive in his limited action this season. In three appearances this year, Guarantano has completed 12-of-24 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. But he has more mobility and brings a different style of play to the offense than Dormady.
But the offense needs some sort of change, and a switch at quarterback is one of the best ways to try and turn things around.
Dormady’s issues haven’t all been because of his own play, however. The offensive line, although not allowing a ton of sacks on the season, hasn’t given Dormady consistent protection. On top of that, Dormady’s receivers haven’t helped him out consistently either. The Vols’ young receivers have dropped a number of passes and have run the wrong route on numerous occasions.
If those problems continue, Guarantano won’t find much success either. But the hope with Guarantano is that his mobility and ability to keep the ball safe will help bail out the offense in ways Dormady couldn’t.
When asked about the quarterback competition on Monday, Butch Jones said the first thing he looks for in a quarterback is the ability to take care of the ball. So far, Dormady hasn’t done a good job of that while Guarantano has in what little action he’s seen.
Guarantano’s appearances have been limited, but he’s yet to turn the ball over in his three appearances this season. Dormady, meanwhile, has thrown six interceptions and fumbled the ball a couple times as well.
Only time will tell if tabbing Guarantano to take over at quarterback will prove to be the right decision long term. But in the short term, turning to the redshirt freshman is the correct move. Guarantano deserves his chance, and now Vol fans will get to see what he offers.