2019 Fall Camp Position Preview: Quarterbacks

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    Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    We get you ready for the start of Tennessee’s 2019 fall camp by previewing the Vols’ roster position-by-position. Make sure to check out our look at Tennessee’s running backs. Next up is our look at Tennessee’s quarterbacks, our final piece in the series.

    Seniors: None

    Juniors: Jarrett Guarantano (RS)

    Sophomores: None

    Freshmen: Brian Maurer, JT Shrout (RS)

    Unless there’s a significant injury or some unforeseen setback, redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano will be the Vols’ starting quarterback in 2019.

    This set of fall practices is important for Guarantano not because he’s fighting for his job or trying to fend off young competitors; no, this fall is important for the New Jersey native because it’ll go a long way in determining whether or not he and UT’s offense as a whole can have a successful season.

    Guarantano flashed potential last season and was very careful with the football. He finished with nearly 2,000 passing yards, a 62.2 percent completion percentage, 12 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. His interception rate was the lowest among qualifying quarterbacks in the SEC, and he became the first Vol since Josh Dobbs in 2016 to throw for 300 yards in a game when he eclipsed that total in UT’s upset road victory over Auburn.

    Still, there were plenty of things to critique about Guarantano’s game last season as well.

    This offseason has been crucial for Guarantano as he’s worked on developing better timing and awareness in the pocket as well as tightening up his footwork and mechanics. He still needs a lot more help from his offensive line in order to really have success, but this fall will serve as a testing ground for all the work he’s put in over the spring and summer. Plus, he needs the time to make sure he has the right chemistry with all his pass catchers.

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    The starter may be figured out at quarterback for Tennessee, but that doesn’t mean the position is void of question marks. In fact, the battle for Guarantano’s backup will be one of the more intriguing storylines to follow this fall.

    Behind Guarantano, no quarterback on Tennessee’s roster has ever taken a collegiate snap. In fact, only one other quarterback on the entire roster has even spent more than a handful of months on a college campus.

    JT Shrout joined the Vols last year as a three-star signee out of California in their 2018 recruiting class. Shrout redshirted during the 2018 season and didn’t appear in a single game.

    Now, he’s the only non-true freshman at the quarterback position aside from Guarantano.

    Shrout is joined by 2019 signee Brian Maurer as the only other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Maurer at least got to enroll early and practice with the team in the spring, but the former three-star out of Florida has only been in a college program for about eight months.

    If anything happens to Guarantano during the season, Tennessee has to turn the reins over to an inexperienced signal caller. But which one will it be?

    Guarantano has only missed one start since he took over as starter midway through the 2017 season, but he’s been knocked out early in several games. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Guarantano left Tennessee’s match-up with Southern Miss early and ended up missing the next game against Missouri. As a redshirt sophomore last year, Guarantano started all 12 games, but he was taken out early in contests against Florida, Alabama, and Missouri after taking several huge hits.

    Odds are, Guarantano will have to come out of at least one game during the 2019 season. And the drop-off in terms of experience and knowledge of the game from him to his backup is significant.

    This fall is vital for both Shrout and Maurer as they jockey for positioning on the depth chart. Neither one was particularly consistent in the spring, and both will need to improve on that in the fall. Both have a lot of arm talent, and Maurer can move around well in and outside of the pocket. But turnovers are an issue for both young quarterbacks, and that’s one of the biggest concerns with them.

    In an ideal world, Guarantano’s backup only sees the field in 2019 in the fourth quarter of a blowout game. But Tennessee’s quarterback situation hasn’t been ideal the last couple seasons, and both Shrout and Maurer need to use this fall to prepare themselves in case their numbers are called.

    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.