Competition at QB Heating Up Leading into Match-Up Against UGA
So what should the Volunteers do at the quarterback position to try and correct their struggles? Well, there is no clear answer. Both of the Vols’ backup quarterbacks, JT Shrout, and Brian Maurer, are freshmen. Shrout is a redshirt freshman from California and was a member of Jeremy Pruitt’s first recruiting class at UT. On the other hand, Brian Maurer is a true freshman from Ocoa, Florida and was a member of Tennessee’s 2019 class. If Tennessee chooses to go with a freshman at quarterback there will be growing pains and mistakes, that is obvious. The question is if the risks of starting a freshman outweigh the experience of Jarrett Guarantano and to determine that you’ll have to look at all of the quarterback’s reśumés.
We’ll start with Jarrett Guarantano. He was a resident of Oradell, New Jersey and was considered the top dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school. The front runners for Guarantano were thought to be Tennessee, who had deep connections to Guarantano’s father, and Rutgers, his hometown team. In the end, Guarantano chose to go with Tennessee and committed on June 15, 2015. According to 247 Sports, Guarantano was rated as a 4-Star recruit and was the #1 dual-threat QB in the entire county. He was the 2nd best player in the State of New Jersey and was the 79th rated player in the nation. When Jarrett Guarantano signed with Tennessee, head coach Butch Jones decided to redshirt him. After his redshirt year in 2016, there was a competitive quarterback battle between him and Quinten Dormady, to determine who would be the starter in 2017. When the Vols’ first game of the season rolled around, Dormady got the start. He led the Vols to a 42-41 come from behind victory over Georgia Tech, in overtime. Dormady continued to be the starter until the Volunteers were curb-stomped by Georgia by a score of 41-0. Head Coach Butch Jones, who was on one of the hottest seats in the county decided to turn it over to Guarantano. Jarrett Guarantano got his first start against South Carolina, and he impressed. He appeared to be much better than Dormady, as the Vols went to the locker room with a 9-3 lead, the defense was playing out of their mind and Tennessee’s offense played much better than they did against Georgia. Unfortunately, the Vols weren’t able to punch it into the end zone and had to settle for 3 field goals during the first half. In the 2nd half, Jarrett Guarantano couldn’t stay on the field as the Vols scored no points for the remainder of the game, and were unable to punch it into the end zone as the clock expired. The final score was 15-9 South Carolina. Jarrett Guarantano’s only victory that season came against Southern Mississippi, as the Vols went 0-6 in the SEC under him in his first year starting. Head Coach Butch Jones was terminated, and after a disastrous coaching search the Vols ended up hiring Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Under Pruitt, Guarantano improved as the Vols finished 5-7 and 2-6 in the SEC. That’s not a good season by any stretch of the imagination but it was still a solid improvement from winning no SEC games the year before. Then we are in the present day, Jarrett Guarantano is being called a bust and many fans want him benched. But who are Tennessee’s other options at quarterback?
JT Shrout was a 3-Star quarterback flying under the radar in the 2018 class. The California commit would receive an offer and a heavy push from Tennessee’s newly hired head coach, Jeremy Pruitt before flipping his commitment to the Vols. Shrout was a native of California, and when he committed to Tennessee it wasn’t a very big shock. He wasn’t a world-beater or an elite QB. He was a solid quarterback who had the potential to have a good career in college. Tyson Helton, Shrout’s lead recruiter, was convinced that he had what it took to be UT’s starting quarterback. 247 Sports rated Shrout as the #26 Pro-Style QB in the nation and the #67 rated player in the State of California. The 6’3’’ 190 pound Shrout wants to focus on throwing the ball but can run if he has to. He led his high school to the California state playoffs and made it all the way to the quarterfinals. As a senior, he threw for over 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. The redshirt freshman made his debut as a Volunteer vs Chattanooga, he went 3/9 for 23 yards. For the most part, JT Shrout remains somewhat of a question mark; nobody truly knows what he’s capable of.
The last quarterback we’ll discuss in this article will be true freshman, Brian Maurer. Maurer is considered to be the future of the program, his ranking according to 247 Sports was low and he could have been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation. 247 Sports rated Maurer as a 3-Star recruit, the 19th rated pro-style QB in the nation, and the 58th rated player in the State of Florida. In high school Maurer had 3,543 yards and 34 touchdowns, he had roughly 7,700 yards in his entire career which was a record for his county. At one point in the season, Maurer put 77 points on the board in a loss to Oconee County, which set a Florida state record for total number of points scored. Maurer chose Tennessee over West Virginia and Ohio State. After signing with UT, he has made multiple appearances in both Tennessee’s 45-0 shutout victory against Chattanooga and the Vols’ 34-3 loss to Florida.
In the end, only the coaching staff knows who will get the start against the Georgia Bulldogs next Saturday. Some fans want to stick with Guarantano’s experience, others want to give one of the freshmen a shot. You can watch the Tennessee-Georgia game next Saturday at 7:00 ET on ESPN, or come to our watch party at Tennessee Taphouse.
Luke A. Thomas
Luke was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and grew up with a passion for SEC Football.
His career in journalism started in 2016 when he covered his hometown MTSU Blue Raiders. He would later go on to cover the local Vanderbilt Commodores before he would begin covering the Volunteers. He wrote for SBNation, covering UT Athletics before joining Volunteer Roadshow in May of 2019. At Volunteer Roadshow he covers all things Tennessee, with a focus on UT Football and Basketball.