Tennessee’s week one win against South Carolina got the 2020 season off on the right foot for the Vols as they are 1-0 heading into week two’s matchup against Missouri. If you watched the game last Saturday, you saw a much-improved JG. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he looked like a different quarterback than what we saw for most of last season.
The opportunity to have offensive coordinator Jim Chaney back for consecutive seasons is something that Guarantano has not been accustomed to. It has been well-documented that he had four straight seasons of having a new offensive coordinator and a new system to learn with new terminology. That’s a lot of new and even for an experienced starting quarterback it can be difficult to have success.
With that being said, we saw Guarantano be much more efficient with his decision-making last Saturday. He got away from his tendencies from last season that really plagued him and the Vols. JG completed 19 out of 31 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. He also added a rushing touchdown with a QB sneak and did not throw an interception. Turning the ball over was never a problem for JG until last season when he threw a career high 8 interceptions.
The most important stat from the game ties into his improved decision-making. He actually had the quickest average time to throw the ball last week among all SEC quarterbacks, leading the group with an average time of 2.10 seconds. This is a list that Guarantano finished last on in the past two seasons.
While there were some throws that JG would like to have back, particularly a couple to wide-open receivers that were air-mailed, Saturday’s game showed everyone just how much progress JG has made since really the middle of last season.
Guarantano was also critical of his performance last week saying, “I felt like I was leaning back on some throws. There’s a lot of work to get done with myself and the team, but especially me, I thought I could be a lot better. It’s only up from here. I’m going to go practice my behind off this week and try to fix some of the things. I was high on a little bit of throws falling off, pretending and just seeing like I was going to get hit, but that’s not how I play ball and I just have to go fix those things.”
So, what can you expect to see out of the redshirt senior this Saturday against Missouri?
Obviously with the addition of Cade Mays to an already solid offensive line, expect to see a heavy dose of Ty Chandler and Eric Gray. The Vols should be able to control the game with their rushing attack, and not have to rely solely on the arm of Guarantano. However, Tennessee will still look to the passing game in an effort to attack the Mizzou secondary.
I am expecting to see a calm, cool, and collected Guarantano against the Tigers. Look for the fifth-year senior to replicate the quick and timely reactions and decisions he showed against South Carolina. I also expect that we will see improved timing and chemistry between JG and his receivers. If Guarantano is able to fix his tendency to lean back into throws and not anticipate on being hit, those throws that were air mailed will be a thing of the past.
He might not have a perfect game, but I would expect to see JG show more improvements and help lead Tennessee to a 2-0 start to the 2020 season. The schedule ahead for the Vols looks daunting, so Guarantano must continue to show he has put the mistakes he made in 2019 behind him if the Vols are going have a successful season.
The Vols will kick off against the Missouri Tigers for their home opener in Neyland Stadium this Saturday at 12:00 p.m. on the SEC Network.J