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Jarrett Guarantano Struggles in Deep Passing Game vs. Alabama

(Photo via University of Tennessee Athletics)

Jarrett Guarantano committed the first turnover of his career on Saturday against top-ranked Alabama. But for the most part, he didn’t force too many bad throws against the aggressive Crimson Tide defense.

He called it the biggest challenge of his football career.

“I definitely felt more comfortable,” Guarantano said of his second career start, his first on the road. “The first half went pretty well.”

Guarantano took a lot of hits, including four sacks from the Alabama defense. He also carried the ball for 11 times, netting negative -12 yards when you include the sack numbers.

The Vols’ longest pass play of the game was for 12 yards. Guarantano found Ethan Wolf on a slant over the middle, and the tight end gained three or four yards just by falling forward and carrying multiple defenders.

In order for Tennessee’s offense to find more rhythm, the Vols have to develop their downfield passing game. The Vols attempted just four passes that were targeted 20+ yards down the line of scrimmage. All of them fell incomplete.

Here’s a look at where Tennessee tried to throw the ball downfield.

Tennessee has had too many negative yardage plays in the passing game. Since the Vols can’t get separation downfield, or the protection to throw the deep ball, they’ve relied on screens.

And an athletic defense like Alabama took that away with ease.

“There’s not a lot of positives to pull out of (a) 45-7 (loss),” Guarantano said after the game. “But we’ll work harder and we’re very inspired too.”

Guarantano will take a lot of the blame for the lack of downfield passing, but the redshirt freshman needs more help. It’s going to take better protection and crisper routes to free up space behind the secondary.

Tennessee’s receivers came up small in this one. Marquez Callaway couldn’t bring in a deep pass, and the Vols’ receivers and tight ends finished with a combined stat line of six catches for 31 yards.

“We’re just going to need to make plays on the outside,” Guarantano added. “Everybody’s going to have to do their job, and I just have to step up and be the player I should be and I’m supposed to be.”

Guarantano’s second career start had its positives, but there’s definitely plenty on the film for him to take away and learn from to improve for this next start. That one will also be on the road as the Vols travel to Lexington to take on Kentucky next weekend.

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