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VRS Position Preview: Quarterbacks

Jul 24, 2019 | VOL Articles, VOL Football 2019

Heading into the 2019 – 2020 college football season feels a little different for Vol fans than it has in the last few years. There’s a solid starter at the quarterback position. This hasn’t been the case since Josh Dobbs’ senior season. Two seasons ago, most people expected Jarrett Guarantano to get the nod to take over for Dobbs. The reality of SEC defenses quickly set in however and the season became a tumultuous back and forth between RS Fr. Guarantano and League City, Tx SO. Will McBride. In the 2018 season, Jeremy Pruitt’s first year at the helm, Guarantano had earned the new head coach’s confidence in the Vols’ season opener, but once again he would be saddled with a Co-QB in Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst. As Tennessee’s first contest of the 2019 season draws near, it is clearly Guarantano who will get the start. It’s Guarantano’s job to lose. He’s proved to coach Pruitt and the staff in big orange country that he’s got the mental and physical toughness to lead the O’s this year. 

While it’s nice to have a concrete starter in place for the Volunteers, there are still some questions to be answered at the quarterback position. How is the depth? Who is the backup? Who’s coming in the future? 

The Depth

This is where Tennessee is weak. Most schools carry four or five quarterbacks on the roster. Tennessee has three. This could be devastating to the entire season if an injury or two occurs. That being the case, Guarantano is known for his ability to take a beating and keep on ticking. The Vols have also beefed up the offensive line. Last season Guarantano was one of the most sacked and pressured quarterbacks in the country yet he still managed to lead the SEC in interception to completion rate. There were definite issues on the O-line. As many suspected, Jeremy Pruitt wouldn’t allow that to be the case for long. He brought in two five-star offensive tackles in the 2019 recruiting class and added enough body mass to the entire unit to bust a commercial truck scale. Trey Smith, another five-star big guy on the roster is expected to rejoin the team this season after a battle with blood clots in his lungs cut his season short last year. All-in-all the offensive line should be vastly improved from last year’s crew, which bodes well in terms of keeping signal callers healthy. 

Who is the backup?

Going by the personnel choices in the spring game, it would appear that Pruitt and newly hired OC Jim Cheney have landed on SO. JT Shrout to spell Guarantano and handle mop up duties. Shrout has the arm strength to start anywhere in the SEC. He’s an athletic guy who can also be a threat with his legs. Although he’s more of a traditional pocket passer than Guarantano, he can surprise some defenses with his run game. We’ve yet to get to see Shrout in SEC action. He’s not found his way into anything resembling meaningful playing time. However, in high school Shrout was one of the most sought after commodities in the country. He had a pretty decent showing in the spring game as well, going 10-19 totaling 138 yards passing and a TD. In the event that Shrout has to take over for a game, Vol fans needn’t worry. Shrout is perfectly capable and talented enough to handle himself in the SEC. There may be some growing pains, or a settling-in period, but Tennessee could do a lot worse in a back-up quarterback.

Other Quarterbacks

Well, this category should go quickly. As stated before, there are only three on the roster. After JG and Shrout, there’s a freshman with a ton of talent waiting in the wings. Brian Maurer, a three-star composite quarterback out of Ocala, FL is the Vols’ last line of offense? The season could get really ugly really quickly if Tennessee is digging deep enough into the cupboard to tap Maurer. Not that Maurer doesn’t have the tools to make plays, but it would be a daunting task for him to have to take over as a true freshman. Maurer put his arm talent and accuracy on display in the spring at the orange and white game, but he also showed his lack of experience throwing two INTs. Maurer has potential though. Knowing what we know about Pruitt’s vision for the Volunteer offense, Maurer is probably the best fit of the three in terms of build and skill set. With plenty of experience and a few green lights for mop up duty, he’ll make the appropriate strides before it’s his turn at the wheel.

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