Column: It’s Time for a Quarterback Change for the Vols

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    Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

    After gathering himself together and putting forth a solid effort against Georgia Tech and looking good against Indiana State, junior quarterback Quinten Dormady has regressed significantly in the last few weeks.

    Dormady started the season by completing 60 percent of his 55 pass attempts for 415 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception in Tennessee’s first two games of the season. Since then, however, Dormady has managed to complete just 52.4 percent of his 82 pass attempts for 510 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions.

    On the season, Dormady is completing just 55.5 percent of his passes for 925 yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions. He just turned in the worst performance of his career on Saturday in the midst of the Vols’ 41-0 shutout loss to Georgia, completing just five of his 16 pass attempts for 64 yards and two interceptions.

    Dormady has been living dangerously with poor mechanics and bad decision-making all season. And now it’s time for a change.

    Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano hasn’t looked electric when he’s played this season, but he provides an element to Tennessee’ offense that Dormady clearly doesn’t: a threat to run.

    Guarantano hasn’t run much and hasn’t been particularly effective when he’s run so far this season, but it’s clear from watching him play that he has the ability. His pocket presence and timing aren’t close to what Josh Dobbs had, but that’s also a junior/senior Dobbs we’re talking about compared to a redshirt freshman in Guarantano.

    While his stats show that he’s only carried the ball 10 times for six yards, those numbers don’t tell the whole story about Guarantano’s running ability. He’s ripped off a 12-yard run in one of his brief appearances, and he’s been able to escape pressure better than Dormady because of that mobility.

    Guarantano’s stats look bad because when he’s been thrown in to play, he hasn’t been set up to succeed. He’s completing exactly half of his passes, and most of them have been shorter passes that he’s completed. He’s also had several of his passes dropped. Guarantano has completed 12 of his 24 pass attempts for just 54 yards and a score in three different appearances this season.

    Regardless of what his stats say, Guarantano deserves a shot at the starting quarterback spot for the Vols.

    Even if Guarantano turns out to be worse than Dormady, he still deserves to show what he has in actual game action as a starter and not coming into the game cold off the bench. Tennessee’s offense has gone from erratic but effective to downright atrocious under Dormady’s direction. Butch Jones’ spread/read option offense isn’t suited for Dormady’s skill set, and it shows. Guarantano fits that mold better.

    Jones has shown stubbornness with quarterbacks before while at Tennessee. The only reason Jones turned to Josh Dobbs in both 2013 and 2014 was because of injuries to starter Justin Worley. If not for that, Dobbs may never have seen the field in either of those seasons. Even then, Nathan Peterman got the first shot at starting instead of Worley in both years. Peterman got a start on the road against Florida in 2013 and picked up the start against Alabama in 2014 the week after Worley got hurt.

    The Vols’ offense has hit rock bottom. They need a change, and it has to start at the quarterback position. Guarantano could be an electrifying play-maker, one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, or he could be even worse than Dormady. The fact is that nobody really knows right now; he hasn’t been given the opportunity to really show what he has during a game.

    If Tennessee wants to salvage their season, serious change needs to happen. Guarantano deserves a shot to be that change the offense needs.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.