Jarrett Guarantano led then-ranked No. 16 Tennessee to a 31-27 win over South Carolina in the Vols first game of the 10-game conference-only schedule this past weekend.
Guarantano finished the game 19-of-31 for 231 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception and added a rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak at the goal line.
“Well I thought No. 1, offensively we didn’t have any turnovers,” Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt said on Wednesday during Vol Calls. “And if you don’t turn the football over offensively, you’ve got about an 82 percent chance of winning the game. So we didn’t turn the football over.”
Turnovers plagued Guarantano last season. He threw a career-high 16 touchdowns as a redshirt junior, but also threw a career-high eight interceptions. One of Guarantano’s biggest strengths prior to last season was his decision-making, as he only threw three interceptions in 2018, his first full season as the starter.
Though his decision-making regressed last season, Saturday’s performance against South Carolina served as a potential sign that Guarantano’s decision-making had regained 2018 form.
“I felt like he made pretty good decisions,” Pruitt said. “There was probably two decisions, out of 74 or 76 snaps, that he’d probably liked to have done something else. I think you have to give South Carolina a little credit for that. They confused him on a couple plays.
“I thought he was very efficient, got the ball out of his hand. Made some big plays for us just by doing the simple thing, checking the ball down and hanging in there in the pocket. He kept us in the right run plays.”
Accuracy was another perceived strength of Guarantano’s entering 2019. In 2018, he completed 62% of his passes. But last season, that dipped to a career-worst 58.9%.
Being accurate with the football was an issue once again against South Carolina to begin the 2020 season. Guarantano completed a little over half of his passes against the Gamecocks.
“Were there three or four throws that he would’ve liked to have back, sure there were,” Pruitt said. “There were three or four calls that I made during the game that I’d like to have back, too.
“I thought his consistency was much improved. He’s working hard this week. He was in here on Sunday morning to study the tape. And continuing to work hard to improve.”
Guarantano’s next opportunity to show how much he’s improved from last season will be this Saturday when Tennessee takes on Missouri in its home-opener. The Vols and Tigers are scheduled to kickoff at 12 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.