Keller Chryst Could be Day One Starter for Vols

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    (Photo via Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

    Tennessee officially will be adding Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst to their roster, and that was confirmed late Thursday night. And Chryst’s impact will be felt immediately once he arrives on campus.

    Chryst will graduate from Stanford in June and will join Tennessee shortly after that. And once fall camp begins, he’ll be thrown into the mix at quarterback. The Vols will have an ongoing competition at that time, and Chryst will only make that competition more intriguing.

    And from my analysis of him and the Vols’ quarterbacks currently on the roster, I think he could be Tennessee’s Day One starter.

    Chryst is far from Tennessee’s savior at quarterback (pardon the pun), but he has solid Power Five experience and can make a multitude of throws that I didn’t see any of the Vols’ quarterbacks make last season with any sort of consistency. His numbers might not be the flashiest, but he was a solid starter who cut down on turnovers while at the helm of the Cardinal’s offense.

    At Stanford, Chryst made 13 starts. He started the final six games of the 2016 season and went 6-0, leading Stanford to a bowl game and victory over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl despite leaving the game with injury. He would then start Stanford’s 2017 season as the starter before another injury allowed K.J. Costello to show what he could do. And once Chryst came back from injury, he was never given full reign of the offense again.

    Chryst twice beat Oregon as a starting quarterback, helped defeat Utah, and held a 11-2 record as Stanford’s starting quarterback. But he’s far from perfect.

    It’s true that Chryst was beat out for the job by Costello, and watching both play shows why. Costello had better command of the offense when he was in, and he was slightly more accurate. Chryst has his drawbacks. Almost all his wins as a starter came against teams who finished below .500, and he only completed 55.4 percent of his 289 pass attempts.

    But the former Stanford QB has plenty of upside as well.

    Chryst threw 19 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions during his time at Stanford. The Vols haven’t had a TD/INT ratio that good since Josh Dobbs threw 15 touchdowns and just five picks in 2015.

    Not only is Chryst careful with the ball, but he was solid in the red zone. He threw 14 touchdowns compared to just one interception in the red zone during his Stanford career. The Vols’ red zone offense last season was one of the worst in the country. Tennessee scored on just 80 percent of their red zone trips last year, and they only scored a touchdown on 54.3 percent of their red zone possessions. That was the lowest percentage in the SEC last year.

    Chryst isn’t a dynamic runner, but he’s a capable ball carrier. Take a look at his film below. His delivery is a little prolonged, but he shows off his athleticism multiple times. He’s very adept in play-action passes, and he can throw a variety of passes. He’s good at making reads and handling RPOs.

    Jarrett Guarantano and Will McBride won’t just roll over and let Chryst win the starting job, though. I saw enough from Guarantano last year to know he has the skill set to end up being the Vols’ starting quarterback. A lot of it will depend on how comfortable Guarantano is in the pocket and if he can get his rhythm better developed. He has the skills, but he just held the ball far too long and was hesitant to make decisions last season.

    If that indecision is still there and/or Guarantano hasn’t improved his mechanics enough, then Chryst will come in and land the starting spot over him and McBride. He has the experience and the skill set to be productive as Tennessee’s starter, and I fully expect he’ll get that job unless Guarantano can improve and get more confidence under the new coaches.

    Keller Chryst is far from a perfectly polished quarterback. But beggars can’t be choosers, and the Vols were desperately in need of adding a grad transfer quarterback. Chryst is far from incompetent, though, and he has all the tools to come in and be an immediate starter for Tennessee.

    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.