After an embarrassing 24-13 loss this past Saturday against Arkansas, Tennessee currently sits at 2-4 with 4 games remaining in the 10-game 2020 season. Coming off of a bye week the expectations were that the Vols would come out and look much better than they had in the previous three games, but unfortunately it was more of the same.
The offense struggled to score points, the defensive issues were still there, and coaching mistakes certainly did not help either. In the position the Vols have put themselves in with the performances on the field, this season looks to be lost. The time is now for head coach Jeremy Pruitt to look towards the future and turn this team over to the players he brought in to help bring this program out of the pit of despair it has been stuck in for years. This starts with Harrison Bailey taking over as the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season and beyond.
The former 5-star recruit out of Marietta High School in Marietta, Georgia was brought in by Pruitt to be the future at the quarterback position. While there are other issues to address, it has been clear that the lack of consistent quarterback play has been holding the Vols back for some time now.
Fifth-year senior Jarrett Guarantano has manned the QB position for the last few seasons and has had about the most up and down career you could imagine. Guarantano has given everything he has to this program and I thank and respect him for that, but it is time for both sides to move on. It’s been clear for a while now that JG isn’t going to get any better than what he is and that’s okay, but continuing to play a quarterback that isn’t improving is not helping this team win games. We keep being told that Guarantano gives the team the best chance of winning, but this cannot be the case anymore as JG was not even trusted to throw the ball more than 8 times in his time on the field this past Saturday.
Against Arkansas, Guarantano had to come out of the game due to a head injury, which forced Jeremy Pruitt to turn to another quarterback and his decision caused some head scratching. Sophomore Brian Maurer was brought in to take over at quarterback instead of Harrison Bailey. I think Brian Maurer has talent and could be a decent quarterback, but if Bailey is the future why is he not the first choice there?
Instead, Bailey took over after Maurer failed to impress and proceeded to hand the ball off 6 straight times before attempting his first pass of the night on a fourth down play in which Pruitt should’ve kicked a field goal to make it a 24-16 game and give his team the chance of getting the ball back and possibly tying the game. Bailey completed 6 of his 9 pass attempts for 65 yards and 2 interceptions. One of those picks came on the fourth down play and should have been negated due to defensive pass interference, but the call was missed by the officials.
It was not shocking to see Guarantano announced as the starter for the Arkansas game, but what was shocking was the game plan on offense. The lack of confidence in JG caused Tennessee to become one-dimensional and allowed Arkansas to adjust accordingly. Why was JG allowed to start this game if you don’t trust him?
Most people, including myself, wanted to see Bailey start the Arkansas game and see what he could do with a full game rather than being brought in when the game is already out of hand. The situations that Bailey is being put in are not setting him up for success at all and it does not benefit him in anyway.It is time that Harrison Bailey is given the reigns of the offense as the starting quarterback to finally start moving this program in the right direction. There will more than likely be some growing pains for Bailey as he adjusts to playing at the SEC level, but I would much rather lose games trying to develop the quarterback of the future than continuing to play a fifth-year senior you don’t trust.