Jim Chaney marks Jarrett Guarantano’s fourth offensive coordinator during his time in Knoxville.
When Guarantano signed with Tennessee as a four-star quarterback out of high school, Mike DeBord was the Vols’ offensive coordinator. DeBord remained Guarantano’s offensive coordinator through his redshirt season but moved on to Indiana following the 2016 season.
Before Guarantano’s redshirt freshman season, tight ends coach Larry Scott was promoted to OC. That season didn’t go according to plan, as Tennessee went 4-8 for the first time in school history, and head coach Butch Jones was fired. None of his staff was retained, meaning Guarantano would be getting another new play-caller in his third season at UT.
In stepped Jeremy Pruitt, who hired Tyson Helton to be Tennessee’s offensive coordinator. The offense was better as a whole during Guarantano’s redshirt sophomore season, but it wasn’t where it needed to be at the end of the season. As a result, Helton moved on to Western Kentucky to serve as head coach.
Chaney now makes his way back to Knoxville after three seasons as Georgia’s offensive coordinator. Following the addition of Chaney as part of an SEC East power play by Pruitt, Guarantano is taking his fourth coordinator in four years day-by-day.
“I just have to take it slow, get to know Coach Chaney,” Guarantano said during a media session during spring practices this year. “I’ve been around a lot of different football, a lot of different terminology.
“I think that my football knowledge has grown just because I have had a lot of different coordinators.”
Guarantano had complete trust in Pruitt throughout the search for a new offensive coordinator. As Tennessee’s second-year head coach conducted his search, he regularly called his quarterback in order to keep him up to date on what was going on. As a result, Guarantano had a lot of faith that Pruitt was going to pick the best coach.
“I was very excited,” Guarantano said of his reaction to finding out Chaney had been hired. “Just being able to have him run the show, he’s been able to do it many different ways. He’s going to find a way for us to do it, and it’s going to be effective.”
Chaney has a great reputation of not only developing quarterbacks, but also being able to adapt his offense to his personnel. Guarantano hasn’t necessarily seen that just yet as the Vols are just implementing the offense this early in spring.
“Coach Chaney has been a great coach for us,” Guarantano stated. “He’s been able to tell us the X’s and O’s to his offense.
“There’s not very much different between last year and this year, it’s just a lot of different verbiage that everyone has to come accustomed to. He’s a great addition to the staff, and I think everyone is excited to have him.”
The biggest difference may simply be the verbiage, but with a new offensive coordinator comes new opportunities. There’s a lot of install in the early phases, which is essential to the foundation of the offense. Once those essentials are nailed down, Guarantano pictures an advantageous situation.
“There’s a lot more answers, there’s a lot more control for the quarterbacks, of course I like that,” Guarantano added. “I think it’s very effective.”
Last season, Guarantano completed 62 percent of his passes and threw for 1,907 yards and 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He impressed in wins against Auburn and Kentucky, but because of offensive line struggles, he also struggled to dissect defenses at times.
In the words of the New Jersey native, the offense finally having answers consists of hot throws, different coverage beaters, and being able to pick a side and stay on that side. Having more control of protections and being able to know where he’s hot should result in a big step forward.
“I’ve been focusing on my release, on my footwork,” Guarantano said. “I think that even this offense coming in, there’s a lot of answers and hot throws, and I can control the protections. I’m very excited for that.
“It’s just being a master of the offense.”
Guarantano refuses to comment when asked about how much he was dealing with injury-wise last season, but it was evident how much he was going through in November. He was banged up with some sort of injury throughout most of the season, and it’s only helped his mental toughness.
“I’ve put on a lot of weight,” Guarantano said of his gains in the weight room this offseason. “I put on 20 to 25 pounds. and it was definitely needed.
“I think I’ve gotten faster, stronger. I’ve been able to get the ball out quicker with my hips.”
With added weight going into his third spring, Guarantano is not only focused on improving as a quarterback, but as a leader.
“I’m going to have to be a bigger leader, I’m going to have to lead the way a little bit more,” Guarantano said. “Another year of growth, I’m going to be a better leader.”