Redshirt-Freshman Jarrett Guarantano will start Saturday’s SEC game against South Carolina, Butch Jones confirmed Wednesday.
To this point, he hasn’t been in a position to demonstrate much of his skillset. A touchdown pass against Indiana State and six garbage time completions versus Georgia join an insipid 2-for-5 afternoon against UMass.
But he’s flashed the capability to pass and run with a high-degree of consistency. His quarterbacking drew offers from Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson.
Jones has long expressed his desire for a dual-threat quarterback, mentioning on several occasions that successful college teams rely on versatility and more play calling options. He employed that style at Cincinnati and Central Michigan.
Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay split snaps at quarterback on Jones’ last team at Cincinnati. Both players rushed for more than 300 yards. All three seasons at CMU, Dan Lefevour led the team in passing and rushing.
“In order to be successful, you have to be able to run the ball a little bit,” he said in a September news conference. “He has to be able to make plays with his legs.”
Josh Dobbs earned more than 100 carries in all three years as Tennessee’s starter. This season, Vols quarterbacks have attempted 20 through five games.
Guarantano and junior Quinten Dormady battled for the starting quarterback position throughout the Spring and Summer. When Dormady started the season opener against Georgia Tech, Guarantano exhibited his frustration on the sidelines.
“I think we all know the Georgia Tech deal and what happened there,” said Offensive Coordinator Larry Scott. “For what he needed, in the process of becoming a quarterback, was for something like that to occur.
“He’s done a really good job mentally understanding how to focus, how to be a great teammate, how to take the steps to be a quarterback.”
The first-team offense has recently split snaps 50-50 between Dormady and Guarantano, according to Butch Jones. Both Scott and Jones have been adamant about ball security, an area where UT’s limped to a minus-four turnover margin.
In his first five starts, Dormady completed 55% of his passes and thrown six interceptions. He converted 5-of-16 passes versus a Georgia defense nationally ranked third in yards allowed.
One of Tennessee’s greatest focuses has early-down efficiency. Albeit against substitutions, Guarantano completed three first down passes against Georgia. Dormady tossed two interceptions on first and 10.
Jones and Scott also aim to speed up what’s been a slower offense than normal. Tennessee’s offense ranks in the bottom 20 nationally in plays per game. Through five games, the team has played to and average tune of 64.2 plays.
“We’ll continue to be a no-huddle football team,” Jones said Monday. “Our tempo does have to increase.”