Two veteran Tennessee players have been named to preseason watch lists of two prestigious awards.
Redshirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and redshirt senior linebacker Darrell Taylor have both been named to a pair of award watch lists. Guarantano has been named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award while Taylor has been named to the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award.
The Maxwell Award — named in honor of Robert “Tiny” Maxwell — is given annually to the College Football Player of the Year. The Bednarik Award is given to the best defensive player in college football annually.
Guarantano is the first Tennessee quarterback to be named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award since Josh Dobbs was listed as a watch candidate in 2016. The redshirt junior quarterback is the first Vol to be named to the preseason watch list since running back John Kelly in 2017.
Last season, Guarantano started all 12 games at quarterback for the Vols and finished the season with the lowest interception rate among qualifying SEC quarterbacks. Guarantano broke UT’s school record for most consecutive passes without an interception when he attempted 166 straight passes without an opponent picking off a pass. He finished his redshirt sophomore season completing 62.2 percent of his 246 pass attempts for 1,907 yards, 12 touchdowns, and just three interceptions.
Taylor becomes the first Vol linebacker to be named to the Bednarik Award watch list since Jalen Reeves-Maybin in 2016. Last offseason, safety Nigel Warrior was named to the preseason watch list.
The redshirt senior linebacker had a breakout performance in 2018, totaling 36 tackles, eight sacks, 11 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Taylor had monster performances in two SEC games, racking up three sacks and two forced fumbles against Georgia on the road and tied a school record with four sacks in a game against Kentucky in the Vols’ upset victory over the Wildcats. He also totaled six tackles, three tackles for loss, and a sack in Tennessee’s season finale against Vanderbilt.
Tennessee as a school has only had one player win the Maxwell Award, and that was Peyton Manning back in 1997. The Vols have never had a player win the Bednarik Award, but three different UT players have been named semifinalists for the award. Linebacker Kevin Burnett was named a semifinalist in 2004, and safety Eric Berry (2008) and defensive end Derek Barnett (2016) were also semifinalists.
The Vols begin their 2019 season on August 31st when they host Georgia State in Neyland Stadium. Kick-off is set for 3:30 PM Eastern.