Jarrett Guarantano Rated as No. 4 Quarterback in SEC

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    Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    RTI contributor Murphy Carlton is the author of this article 

    Much has been made about what kind of growth Tennessee starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano can show in 2019. One major media service is predicting big things for the Vols’ redshirt junior QB this upcoming season based on the improvement he showed from 2017 to last year.

    Pro Football Focus released their college starting quarterback rankings for all 130 FBS programs for the 2019 season earlier this week, and UT’s starting quarterback was featured inside the top 25 overall.

    Jarrett Guarantano, according to PFF, is ranked 21st among all starting quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season. That places him fourth in the SEC, trailing only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (2nd), Georgia’s Jake Fromm (9th), and LSU’s Joe Burrow (17th).

    Guarantano is ranked higher than some notable quarterbacks around the country, too. The Vols’ starter is ahead of Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond (25th), Missouri’s Kelly Bryant (29th), South Carolina’s Jake Bentley (33rd), and Florida’s Feleipe Franks (42nd). He’s also ahead of Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez (24th) and BYU’s Zach Wilson (30th) among others.

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    Cam Mellor, the author of the article, explains the rankings, stating that “these rankings take into account a quarterback’s PFF grade both from last season, and all other subsequent sets of data that we have on their time in college. The list projects these players as the starter but is also influenced by the situation behind the projected starting quarterback if he were to miss any amount of time going forward.”

    As for why Guarantano is just outside the top 20 and is considered one of the top QBs in the SEC, PFF cites his performance against Kentucky and his overall progression from 2017 to 2018 as to why he projects so well for this upcoming season.

    “During the 2018 season, Guarantano’s performance against Kentucky was the highest-graded single-game outing among returning quarterbacks,” Mellor writes. “He showcased what made him such a highly-touted recruit as the No. 1 dual-threat QB from New Jersey and the No. 2 player overall from his state. His marked improvement from 2017 to 2018 gives reason for hope of a big season in Knoxville this year.”

    In that game against Kentucky, Guarantano completed 12 out of 20 pass attempts for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also averaged 9.9 yards per completion and had a QBR of 87.0.

    This type of game should be exactly what fans should expect to see from Guarantano this season. Taking care of the ball, distributing it among his playmakers, and making smart decisions should be his foundation.

    Mellor goes on to talk about the improvements Guarantano showed from 2017 to 2018 as a major reason why Guarantano is ranked where he is. In 2018, Guarantano started all 12 games and threw for 910 more yards and 8 more touchdowns than he did in 2017. Obviously, as the full-time starter in 2018 you would expect numbers to improve, but Guarantano also showed he has a knack for taking care of the football and making good decisions and throws under pressure.

    Guarantano really took a step forward last year in his first full season as the starting QB. I feel that 2019 will be an even better year for him, especially having new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney calling plays.

    The Vols don’t need Guarantano to be elite to have success in 2019. But if he plays like a top five quarterback in the SEC like Pro Football Focus projects, then that will bode well for Tennessee.