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Column: Is the Vols’ QB Competition Now Over?

We’re just two weeks in to the Vols’ 2017 season, but is the much talked about quarterback competition now over?

Junior Quinten Dormady got off to a rough and slow start in his first career start as a Vol when Tennessee took on Georgia Tech to open up the 2017 season. He was a mere 8-of-20 for 52 yards in the first half of the Vols’ first game of the season, but since then he’s had a much better stat line.

Since that first half against Georgia Tech, Dormady has completed 25 of his 35 passes for 363 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. That includes completing 13 of his 18 attempts for 194 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick against FCS opponent Indiana State during the Vols’ 42-7 rout on Saturday.

Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano finally got to play on the field against Indiana State, but his first action as a Vol wasn’t the smoothest. Guarantano finished his first ever collegiate game completing just four his 12 passing attempts for 41 yards. He did cap off his night with a touchdown on his final throw with just 56 seconds left in the game, however. But the moments leading up to that weren’t exactly pristine.

So that begs the question: Is Tennessee’s quarterback battle now over just two weeks into the season? Has Dormady done enough to solidify himself as the full-time starter, and did Guarantano’s outing against Indiana State prove that Dormady should be the one under center?

Dormady has looked far from immaculate in his first two starts for the Vols. He was slow to adjust against Georgia Tech, had sloppy footwork, and didn’t look comfortable in the pocket in that game till late. And against Indiana State, Dormady had two turnovers, including throwing an interception into the end zone that erased any chance the Vols had of scoring on that drive. His other turnover was a fumble in Tennessee territory that was recovered by Indiana State and led to the Sycamore’s only touchdown of the game.

Guarantano didn’t look good against Indiana State, but his performance is worth taking with a grain of salt. Guarantano was attempting mostly deeper passes and going through his first ever live reps in college. He also had at least two dropped passes by receivers, and most of his playing time came after the Vols subbed out a lot of their offensive starters.

Has Dormady looked better overall than Guarantano in what limited action we’ve seen of the redshirt freshman? Yes, he has. At least in my opinion. But has his performance absolutely solidified him as the true No. 1 quarterback for the Vols moving forward? No, it hasn’t.

With that being said, expect Dormady to be the starter for the rest of the way barring some sort of catastrophic performance in the future. But Guarantano will likely still see the field, even in SEC play.

When Tennessee takes on Florida (wherever it may take place) this Saturday, expect Dormady to get the vast majority of the snaps. But don’t be surprised if Guarantano has a package or two lined up for him. Both have flashed enough potential for both players to warrant earning snaps in the game.

Guarantano may not have had a great game on paper against Indiana State, but Dormady hasn’t done quite enough just yet to separate himself fully in the quarterback battle. Dormady could do just that with a solid performance against Florida, but it would take something like that for him to truly establish himself as the No. 1 quarterback in Tennessee’s offense.

Until then, Tennessee’s quarterback battle rages on. Dormady may have the edge for now, but that could quickly change in SEC play.

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