RTI contributor Murphy Carlton is the author of this article
It’s safe to say that the 2019 season has not gone the way Jarrett Guarantano thought it would at the beginning of the year.
In a season where the redshirt junior has faced many low points, none were lower than when he fumbled at the goal-line in the fourth quarter against Alabama. Some, including myself, thought this would be the last time the fourth-year quarterback would see the field for the Vols in 2019.
However, head coach Jeremy Pruitt knew his quarterback would help his team win games, and that’s exactly what Guarantano has done.
The redshirt junior has come off the bench for the Vols in their last five games and has helped lead Tennessee to three-straight victories and four wins in their last five games.
Guarantano has thrived in his role as a “sixth man” off the bench for the Vols. In Tennessee’s first four games of the season — all starts for Guarantano — the fourth-year junior completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 736 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions. But three of those seven scores came against FCS opponent UT-Chattanooga, meaning Guarantano had thrown just four touchdowns compared to four interceptions against FBS teams.
In the last five games for the Vols, Guarantano has completed 62 percent of his pass attempts for 652 yards, six touchdowns, and only one interception while coming off the bench.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Wednesday afternoon and was asked about Guarantano coming off the bench and what the veteran could do to potentially win the starting QB job back.
“I think Jarrett, when he plays within himself and goes through progressions, he has a great opportunity to have success,” Pruitt said of Guarantano. He’s a smart guy, tough guy, and the game comes easy to him. He can make all the throws. He’s an instinctive guy.
“I do think he’s probably more suited to come off the bench maybe than the other guys. I think he can see and process and take some of the things that have happened previously in the game and take advantage of it. It’s something we felt gave us the best opportunity to win and have success, so that’s why we’ve done it. I think he can play just as well starting the game.”
This staff has shown they will do whatever they feel will give the team the best chance to win games. Treating Guarantano as the offense’s sixth-man has proven to be an effective strategy, even if it is unconventional.
When asked about the starting quarterback position and if Guarantano could win the job back moving forward, Pruitt said that simply starting isn’t what’s important to him. What Pruitt looks for is which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win no matter when they come into the game.
“I guess the ‘starting job’ is not as important to me as who’s playing effectively and efficiently and gives us the best chance to win,” Pruitt explained. “I know the quarterback position is a little unusual to play multiple guys this date and time. I believe that Jarrett gives us great opportunities to win football games. I believe that Brian Maurer and JT Shrout gives us opportunities to win football games.
“Jarrett has an advantage over those guys because he has lots more experience, but we’ll see how things go.”
Freshmen quarterbacks Brian Maurer and JT Shrout have played in multiple games this season for the Vols, and both have earned starts as well. But neither of UT’s younger signal callers have been able to play effective and efficient enough to take sole possession of the quarterback job.
Whether it’s been because of injury or poor play, Guarantano has come in to save the day in four of Tennessee’s last five games. And he might be asked to do it again in the Vols’ final two games of the regular season.