Every year, Athlon Sports asks coaches around college football to anonymously share their thoughts on schools within their conferences. Athlon asked SEC coaches from every school to give their opinion on other SEC schools, and some of those coaches gave their honest thoughts on Tennessee heading into the 2018 season.
One anonymous coach spoke in detail about rising redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. And he didn’t hold back in his assessment.
“There are some really good quarterbacks in this league, and not many were more highly ranked than Jarrett Guarantano,” the coach told Athlon. “But he sure didn’t play very well last year when he got a chance. He holds onto the ball too long and takes some unnecessary hits. He has to step his game up. People thought he would step in and be like Joshua Dobbs, but Dobbs is a better thrower than people thought, and he made plays with his feet. Guarantano, I don’t think, is a dual threat like people think. He has a good, live arm, but he’s not a dynamic spread-offense runner. To be fair, I don’t know that he is surrounded by a lot of weapons on the perimeter.”
Coming out of high school, Guarantano was ranked as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and No. 79 overall player in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. But he certainly didn’t look light on his feet in the first action of his collegiate career last year, totaling negative 39 yards on 66 carries last season. Granted, Guarantano was sacked over two dozen times in his six starts and nine overall appearances last year, but he never was a huge threat on the ground.
Guarantano finished his redshirt freshman campaign completing 61.9 percent of his 139 pass attempts for 997 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. He didn’t turn the ball over much, but he also averaged just 7.2 yards per completion, which was 12th among qualifying quarterbacks in the SEC last season.
But a change of offensive scheme could be what Guarantano needs to succeed, and another anonymous SEC coach is interested to see if that will be the spark the former four-star quarterback needs.
“It will be interesting to see what they do with Tyson Helton as the coordinator,” another coach said. “I think they are going to more of a pro-style or traditional offense. We’ll see if that fits with what Guarantano can do well.”
Of course, Guarantano isn’t the guaranteed starter for the Vols at quarterback this season. Jeremy Pruitt and his staff were able to land Stanford grad transfer Keller Chyrst earlier this year, and Chryst will finally be able to compete with Guarantano this fall when fall camp starts up on August 3rd. Chryst was 11-2 as a starter for Stanford in 2016 and 2017 and threw 19 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions and ran for three more scores as well.
Chryst brings a lot more collegiate experience to the Vols’ quarterback room, and he won’t be easy for Guarantano to beat out. But now that Guarantano has an actual quarterbacks coach in Helton, he could finally start reaching his potential.
Another SEC coach believes coaching, not necessarily a lack of talent, was Tennessee’s problem last year. He believes both Florida and Tennessee suffered from a lack of development in their old regimes.
“Tennessee and Florida have some of the same problems,” the coach stated. “They have some good players, but they have made some mistakes — not so much from a talent perspective but from a character perspective. Player development is something they didn’t do a great job of either.”
As we looked at last week, the Vols have more talent on their 2018 roster than a lot of national analysts seem to believe. But that talent hasn’t been developed properly over the last couple years, and that’s a big reason why Tennessee went 4-8 last season.
If the Vols can finally start cashing in on some of their potential and get solid play from their quarterback — whether that’s Guarantano or Chryst — then 2018 could be a major change from what Vol fans experienced in 2017.