Initially, Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t ready to commit to true freshman Brian Maurer as the Vols’ starting quarterback moving forward. After Maurer’s first career start on Saturday, UT’s second-year head coach said he needed to see the film from the game before making a decision. Pruitt didn’t downplay Maurer’s performance against No. 3 Georgia, but he simply wanted to make sure giving the offense over to him after one start was the right call after watching the tape.
Come Monday, Pruitt was more confident that Maurer would be starting at QB for the Vols against Mississippi State this upcoming weekend.
“We’re gonna see how this week goes,” Pruitt said during his weekly Monday press conference. “I think he’ll really have to have a bad week of practice not to (be the starter). But we’ll see how the week goes.”
Now on Wednesday, Pruitt and Tennessee as a whole are completely buying in to the Brian Maurer hype.
On Wednesday, Maurer tweeted out a video that was likely edited and put together by the media team at UT. The video showed highlights of Maurer’s first start against Georgia, a game in which he threw for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
Included with the video were Maurer’s own words, saying “This fight isn’t over, we’re only on round 6.” The official Tennessee football Twitter account retweeted the video, essentially giving Maurer’s play and his words an endorsement.
— Brian Maurer (@maurerera_2) October 9, 2019
Maurer is the first true freshman to start for the Vols since Will McBride in 2017. But McBride was only making a spot start in place of an injured redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano. The last time a true freshman started for UT at quarterback before McBride came in 2013 when Josh Dobbs also took over the starting role due to injuries to other quarterbacks on the roster. He would ride out the rest of the regular season as the starter, but he didn’t keep the job at the start of the 2014 season.
The last time a true freshman was named the starter at quarterback for Tennessee that wasn’t related to injuries was back in 2010 when Derek Dooley and Jim Chaney turned to Tyler Bray over the ineffective Matt Simms. Bray sparked the Vols’ offense, and thanks to his play and a softer back end of the schedule, he led Tennessee to four-straight victories to end the regular season, snagging enough wins to get to a bowl game. Bray would keep the starting role in 2011 and only relinquished his starting duties when injured.
Back then, Bray helped pour some life into a floundering Tennessee football team that had started out the season 2-6. On Saturday, Maurer’s play looked like it might’ve provided the same injection of excitement to Vol fans even though UT lost to Georgia.
Bray was given the Vols’ starting quarterback job because UT’s starter wasn’t getting the job done; he didn’t come in and play simply because the starter ahead of him sustained an injury. Maurer is the first true freshman quarterback at Tennessee to be handed the reins of the offense willingly and not because of injury since Bray. Tennessee turned to Maurer because redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano had played sloppily in the first four weeks of the season, and the Vols were 1-3 as a result.
Can Maurer provide the same type of boost to Tennessee in 2019 that Bray did in 2010? Only time will tell, but it’s clear that the hesitancy to buy in to the hype surrounding the true freshman is completely gone from UT.
Barring injury, it looks like Tennessee is riding the Maurer train for the rest of this season.