The Tennessee-Kentucky match-up is now less than a day away. As Tennessee fans are growing excited to see their Volunteers take the field yet again, there are many questions that remain unanswered about Tennessee’s game plan, including which quarterback UT plans to start. Brian Maurer, who has seemingly emerged as the favorite, has suffered multiple head injuries in the past few weeks making his health a large question mark. Jarrett Guarantano, who is the veteran of the 3, has more experience than both of the other 2 quarterbacks combined. However, his inconsistency and tendency to struggle in big moments has led to another massive question mark about the junior. As for J.T. Shrout, who has started the last 2 games for UT, his potential is the highest in the QB Room. However, in high school, he threw 25 interceptions during his senior year, which is why we’ve seen him on such a short leash when he makes questionable throws. Obviously, all of Tennessee’s quarterbacks have their strengths and weaknesses, but the question on who will start tomorrow is still unanswered, so here’s everything we know about the Volunteers QB plans ahead of their massive match-up with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Brian Maurer (True-Freshman)
The rumbles around Knoxville are that Maurer is the favorite to get the start on Saturday after missing nearly half of the Vols’ match-up with Mississippi State, and the entirety of UT’s games against South Carolina and UAB. Maurer has shown that he has the talent to be successful at Tennessee, and if he can overcome the challenges of being a true freshman in the SEC, he can not only lead Tennessee to its first Bowl Game since 2016 but also a 7-win season.
Most seem to think that Maurer is definitely a no brainer, but head injuries are no joke. The worst thing that UT could do is rush Brian Maurer back onto the field when he’s not ready, his health must be the priority over what he brings to the table. That being said, if Brian Maurer is fully healthy and has been cleared, he should without a doubt be the starter for UT.
Jarrett Guarantano (Redshirt Junior)
Contrary to Brian Maurer, who brings youth and potential to Tennessee’s offense, Jarrett Guarantano brings 4 years of experience on Rocky Top to the table. The question will be whether Maurer’s potential outweighs the experience of Guarantano, which is a question only the coaching staff knows the answer to.
Guarantano’s inconsistency is flabbergasting at times. He can drop back in the pocket and deliver an NFL caliber ball to a receiver, and then turn around and throw an interception that a high school quarterback would make, on the next play. At times he looks like a quarterback that could be playing on Sunday and two minutes later you’re wondering how he’s a quarterback at the power 5 level. It simply doesn’t add up and if UT chooses to give him the start over Maurer and Shrout, it is not a good sign about the coaching staff’s faith in the future of the position.
J.T. Shrout (Redshirt Freshman)
J.T. Shrout has the best arm of any of the quarterbacks, he has the ability to make elite NFL caliber throws. However, the problem with Shrout that you see a lot with the coaching staff’s lack of trust in him is his tendency to make unnessaccary, risky throws into coverage. He threw 25 interceptions in high school as a senior, which is something that is just baffling at this level. If Jim Chaney can work with Shrout to reduce the risky throws he tries to force, he can be the best quarterback in Knoxville. But until then, he is just too big of a risk to take, especially in this huge of a game.
Jauan Jennings (Senior)
Kentucky is going with a converted WR at the quarterback position, so could UT do the same? Well, probably not. While Jennings may technically get the start as he did vs South Carolina, it would be very surprising if he was allowed to throw the ball or if he is Tennessee’s primary quarterback for the entire game.
While you can expect to see a lot of Jauan Jennings in the wildcat, especially in the red zone, it would come as a stunner to see him throw the ball. As much as we would all love to see it, it is likely merely a pipedream.
You can find out which quarterback will take the first for Tennessee at 7:30 on the SEC Network, as the Vols look to get a monumental road win to help achieve their aspirations of their first bowl birth since the 2016 Music City Bowl.