Pruitt: Guarantano is “Going to Play” vs. Georgia

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    Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI

    It was reported on Friday afternoon that true freshman quarterback Brian Maurer would be making his first career start for the Vols on Saturday night against No. 3 Georgia. While No. 18 will still be the starter at QB for Tennessee, the man he’s replacing will apparently still play, too.

    While on SEC Nation on the SEC Network on Saturday morning, Pruitt was asked about Maurer starting at quarterback for the Vols. Rather than immediately address the true freshman, the Vols’ second-year head coach talked about Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee’s starter for the first four weeks of the season.

    “Well, I want to start with Jarrett Guarantano,” Pruitt said. “First of all, this guy’s a guy that I believe in. He had a really good spring, fall camp. Along with a lot of the players on our team, we’ve not executed exactly at the level that we want to be at. To me, I look at it kind of like a basketball shooter. You’ve got a hot shooter that’s not making shots, you put him on the bench and let him be the sixth man. Jarrett Guarantano’s going to play today.”

    But Pruitt reiterated that Maurer will be the starter for the Vols at quarterback when they take the field on offense for the first time.

    “But Brian Maurer is a guy that has worked hard. He’s a really good athlete, so we’re going to give him an opportunity to see what he does to start the game,” Pruitt added.

    Guarantano has made 18-straight starts at quarterback for the Vols dating back to the 2017 season. The redshirt junior has only missed one start since being named the starter before the Vols’ contest against South Carolina in 2017, and that came during the same season when he was held out of Tennessee’s road match-up with Missouri after he sustained an injury against Southern Miss the previous week.

    In 2019, Guarantano has played very up-and-down, with more lowlights than highlights thus far in Tennessee’s action against FBS opponents.

    Taking out his 7-of-8, 142-yard, three-touchdown performance against FCS opponent UT-Chattanooga in Week 3, Guarantano has been a big reason why the Vols have started 1-3 this season. In Tennessee’s contests against Georgia State, BYU, and Florida, the redshirt junior completed 62.4 percent of his 85 pass attempts for 594 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions.

    Guarantano was benched to start the second half of Tennessee’s road contest against Florida two weeks ago, and Maurer led the offense out onto the field after halftime. The Maurer-led Vols went down and kicked a field goal on that opening drive of the second half, producing the only points of the game for Tennessee in the 34-3 loss.

    After a couple more drives and a bad interception, Maurer was pulled in favor of Guarantano, and the Vols’ starter played the remainder of the game until Maurer was reinserted in garbage time in the fourth quarter.

    Combining that appearance against Florida with his playing time against UT-Chattanooga, Maurer is 4-of-13 on the season with 44 passing yards and an interception. He’s also run for a score and has 17 rushing yards on seven carries.

    Assuming Maurer still starts, he’ll be the 11th true freshman quarterback ever to start for the Vols at quarterback. The last time a true freshman QB started for Tennessee was in 2017 when Will McBride filled in for Guarantano against Missouri.

    Tennessee and Georgia will kick-off at 7:00 PM Eastern in Neyland Stadium, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    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.