The 2017 football campaign is officially underway as Butch Jones delivered his opening press conference today to the media.
As spring camp begins, the team and coaching staff will be filled with questions. Who will win the quarterback competition? How will the defensive line fare after losing players like Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen? What impact will the newcomers (including assistant coaches) make?
According to Butch, the team has been through “explosive” workouts under new strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson. He credits Gullickson as having the players ready and energized as camp starts tomorrow. He’s also been working with injured players through “rigorous” rehab programs.
Butch announced that Micah Abernathy, Rashaan Gaulden, Brandon Johnson, Brett Kendrick, Kyle Phillips, Josh Smith, Shy Tuttle, and Kendall Vickers will all be out for spring and are on track to be back by fall camp.
Heading into year five, Butch has dealt with the largest staff turnover in his Tennessee career. Five new assistants were introduced, but there is something different about them. Brady Hoke, Larry Scott, and Mike Canales all have previous head coaching experience. Kevin Beard won a national title at Miami in 2001 and has coached in the SEC. Charlton Warren is nationally regarded as a rising secondary coach. Some of the hires were questionable, but they all bring a level of experience to the team that hasn’t been here since Butch was hired.
With Josh Dobbs leaving, the majority of fans are wanting to know who will step up at the quarterback spot. As most probably guessed, Butch stated that the competition will be open. He didn’t say much more about the competition after that. However, we all know it will come down to junior Quinten Dormady and reshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano.
Guarantano spent the past week in California with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. Whitfield praised Guarantano, saying he was the “coolest surprise” due to his arm, mobility, and ability to gain respect. There is a lot of hype surrounding Guarantano, but fans should really sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. Dormady has a bigger arm, actual game time experience, and has been in the program longer. Guarantano is more mobile, has a strong arm, and seems to fit the scheme better. But as we all know with Butch, he will most likely stick with Dormady as the starter simply due to experience.
One of the other big topics of the day was about freshman Trey Smith, and rightfully so. As we all know, Smith was ranked the #1 recruit and offensive tackle in the country by ESPN. According to Butch, he’s already been impressive, but is holding back lofty expectations.
Along with Smith, questions were asked about the defensive line, particularly Jonathan Kongbo. With Barnett gone, he will have to step up in that role. Kongbo played out of position last year at tackle but has dropped 20 lbs already to get back in shape to play on the edge.
Tennessee starts their 2017 spring camp tomorrow afternoon. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and here on our site for more in-depth coverage.