RTI contributor Adam McCracken is the author of this article
Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt appeared on the Swain Event morning radio show this week, and he was asked about a myriad of topics. One of the big questions to be answered this off-season is the continued progress of Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Pruitt spoke highly of the redshirt junior, who will continue to head the offense barring anything drastic.
Guarantano is coming off an efficient season where he threw for almost 2,000 yards and had only two games with a completion percentage of less than 50 percent in his 12 starts. After taking over late in his redshirt freshman season, Guarantano made strides as a redshirt sophomore last year with his decision making. He threw only three interceptions despite being under pressure more times than not. That interception total was tied for the least amount by a qualifying quarterback in the NCAA. His managing skills are what has made him so efficient, and Pruitt was sure to praise his quarterback for it.
“I think when you start with the quarterback position, the first thing is just managing the offense,” Pruitt mentioned. “Making sure we’re in the right place, making sure we have the right protection and making sure we’re lined up the right way. All these things that Jarrett (Guarantano) is plenty capable of doing. I think Jarrett had a tremendous spring. He continues to work hard and improve.”
While efficiency is a huge key for a quarterback, the ability to make a bigger impact will be the biggest question Guarantano has to answer this season.
Guarantano managed the offense well last season, but he only threw for 12 touchdowns all season and had 200+ yards in only two games. He placed 84th and 86th in passing yards and touchdowns in the FBS, respectively.
This spring, Tennessee made it a point to produce more explosive plays. Pruitt constantly praised the extra yardage and big plays by the offense when they happened. Continuing that in the fall will be vital if Tennessee’s offense wants to take that next step.
But to get to that next step, you have to prepare, and Tennessee has done that in revamping their coaching staff.
New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has had his fair share of success with producing offensive talent over the years. From 1997-2000, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees thrived under Chaney’s spread offense at Purdue. Chris Weinke, the former college star at Florida State who won the Heisman as a quarterback, was hired last season to coach running backs. This season, though, Weinke was moved to his more natural position of coaching quarterbacks. The impact of both Chaney and Weinke have already been evident.
“I think with the addition of Jim (Chaney) and now Chris Weinke coaching quarterbacks, I think we’ve seen a lot of positive steps this spring,” Pruitt said. “I’m looking forward to seeing (Guarantano) continue to grow this summer and into the fall and have a really good junior year.”
Pruitt knows that the offensive success starts with the continued progress of Guarantano. With a very experienced receiving corps, the targets will be there for the redshirt junior. Chaney, who has always found success mixing in the run, will look to keep the offense balanced and the defenses guessing. This should help take the pressure off of Guarantano as long as the running game can become more consistent.
The offensive line may still present a problem this summer and into the early portion of the season, but with it being a point of emphasis in recruiting, Pruitt is providing the offense with every opportunity to succeed.
The time is now for Guarantano. The efficiency, lack of turnovers, and completion percentage are there, but now comes the ultimate question: Can Jarrett Guarantano take the next step and produce? Pruitt likes what he’s seen so far and is hoping that carries over this fall.
You can here Pruitt’s full interview on The Swain Event here.