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Pruitt assesses play of Guarantano, decision to play Maurer vs. Bama

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Redshirt senior Jarrett Guarantano got the start against Alabama on Saturday.

It wasn’t a surprising decision based off of Jeremy Pruitt’s comments all week long. It was still, however, a decision that Pruitt and Tennessee’s offensive coaching staff had to sort through as a result of Guarantano’s tumultuous performance against Kentucky.

Guarantano threw a pick-six on consecutive drives against Kentucky to put the Cats up 14-0 early in the second quarter. Still, Guarantano started against the second-ranked Crimson Tide as a result of being the best quarterback in practice leading up to the game, Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt told the Vol Network prior to the game.

Tennessee’s third-year starter at quarterback didn’t turn the football over against Alabama in his fifth start of the season. Guarantano threw two touchdown passes, but he completed just over 50% of his passes.

“You talk about it being a rough week, Jarrett can’t control what anybody else does,” Pruitt told reporters following Tennessee’s 48-17 loss to Alabama. “All Jarrett can control is what he does. Just like the rest of us in that locker room. So that’s what he needs to focus on and I think he done a really nice job this week being mature about it and focusing on the things he can improve.

“I thought he done a nice job managing the offense today,” Pruitt said. “Had some scrambles out there, was accurate on some throws. So that was good to see.”

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Though Guarantano avoided the catastrophic plays against Alabama that plagued him against Kentucky, he only managed to throw for 162 yards. Tennessee’s wide receivers didn’t do him many favors, struggling to create separation and get open. The combination of inconsistency led to the Vols becoming the first opponent to not throw for at least 250 yards in a game against the Crimson Tide this season.

Sophomore Brian Maurer appears to be Tennessee’s new backup quarterback. JT Shrout was the quarterback to replace Guarantano against Kentucky, but he immediately threw an interception and Guarantano came back in the game a series after being benched. Against Alabama, Maurer was the quarterback to relieve Guarantano with the game out of hand.

“Based off reps, we felt like Brian earned it this week,” Pruitt responded when asked about why he went with Maurer after Guarantano. “We gave him the opportunity and I felt like he done a pretty nice job in there.”

Maurer attempted one pass and completed it for a gain of just a yard. He did have a nice scramble of 15-yards on 3rd-and-13 to pick up a first down.

Tennessee will look to snap its three-game losing streak following an open date to end the month of October. The Vols will be back in action on Nov. 7 when it takes on Arkansas in Fayetteville. Kickoff with the Hogs is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

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