Spring practice is officially in the books for the Vols as they finished up their spring camp with the annual Orange and White Game in Neyland Stadium. It was an opportunity for fans to see some fresh and familiar faces, both on the field and on the sidelines. It was also a chance for fans to see the how much progress the program has made under the direction of Phillip Fulmer and Jeremy Pruitt. The game itself may have not left you on the edge of your seat, but we did learn a few valuable things.
Here’s what we learned:
The offense will only be as good as the offensive line
This is about the sixth year in-a-row in which that statement has been true for the Vols and it looks like this season will be no different. The offensive line Tennessee put on the field on Saturday will look a little different from the one we will see against Georgia State come August, but the experimental offensive line that we saw still left a lot to be desired. The first team offensive line gave up five sacks and didn’t create a lot of quality opportunities for the running backs. The first team backs only averaged about four YPC and didn’t have a carry go for more than 13 yards. This lack of production from the offensive line is exacerbated when you consider the lack of competition they faced.
Regardless, there is still plenty of reason for optimism for this offensive line. The Vols were without starters Brandon Kennedy and Trey Smith and also have yet to get five-star Darnell Wright on campus.
What Pruitt had to say on the offensive line:
“I think we really have to sure up our offense line up front. We need to play with a little lower pad level. We have to be able to run the football to have success in this league, and we have to play a little better body angles. Guys didn’t participate today, and we have some guys coming in, so we have to create a lot of competition up front.”
More of the same for Jarrett Guarantano
Throughout Guarantano’s career on Rocky Top, he’s developed a reputation of being painfully average. He won’t lose you the game, but he won’t win you the game either. Saturday was no different for the redshirt junior. Despite winning the MVP of the game, Guarantano finished the day going 19-for-37 (51 percent) for 198 yards and four touchdowns. Now granted, Guarantano is under a new offensive system and hasn’t had adequate time to fully immerse himself in the offense, but you would expect a bit more from a two-year starter in a spring game.
Things weren’t all negative for him, though. Throughout the game, he did look a lot more comfortable and poised behind the line than in years past. He also didn’t turn the ball over and even had a few highlight-worthy passes including a 54-yard dime to Marquez Callaway. If he continues this development under Jim Chaney and Chris Weinke, he just may be poised for a breakout season this fall.
— Jason DiRienzo (@allpurposescout) April 17, 2019
What Pruitt had to say on Jarrett Guarantano:
“Jarrett is really smart. He has instincts as a player and has arm talent. He has good athletic ability. He has been working on all players do with consistency. I think he has handled the new coordinator well, and it hasn’t been a problem. He has done it before. I think Jim Chaney is a really good teacher. I think Chris Weinke has done a really good job there. When you play quarterback, it takes everybody around you to help you have success. Some of the part of being a quarterback is getting the other guys to play at their highest level. I think that is some of the things that Jarrett has to work on, and I think he will do that.”
What Guarantano had to say on the offense under Chaney:
“I feel pretty comfortable to be honest. I think that there is a lot of room to improve and there’s a lot of room for me over the summer and the next couple of months to master it. Being able to stay here in May with a couple of guys and get down to offense and continue to work with the coaches is helpful. Now it’s voluntary so I have to go up and ask if it’s okay, but just being able to do this stuff on my own there’s a lot of film on a lot of different plays we ran in the spring, so there’s some cut ups I’m able to look at and work through them a little bit.”
Jauan Jennings primed for a monster season
Many folks around Knoxville feared that Jennings would leave for the NFL Draft after last season, but the stud receiver is back for one more season on Rocky Top. Having spent the better part of the last two seasons hampered with injuries, Jennings looks healthy as ever now and ready to compete. He had five receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns, including a nice catch on a fade in the end zone against rising sophomore standout Alontae Taylor.
— Jason DiRienzo (@allpurposescout) April 17, 2019
What Pruitt had to say about Jennings:
“I don’t know how many balls Jauan (Jennings) caught today. I don’t even know if he caught a ball, but I know the fact that he can participate in spring ball and in the offseason conditioning is much better than it was last year. Last year he had a knee surgery, and we didn’t know if he was going to be on the team. So he’s come a long way, and he has a long way to go. We all do, right? He’s got to continue to work hard at all of the little things that have helped him have success in the past. He’s got to continue to do that.”
Plenty of newcomers ready to shine
There were multiple newcomers that stood out on Saturday. Both backup quarterbacks JT Shrout and Brian Maurer had some good moments. Shrout impressed with his arm when he threw a beautiful 43-yard pass to Tyler Byrd.
Shrout. Byrd. pic.twitter.com/omXBLNQMsd
— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) April 13, 2019
But the most talked about newcomer was freshman safety Jaylen McCollough. He was a four-star prospect from Georgia and an early enrollee this spring. McCollough picked off two passes on the day, one returned for 32 yards. With the addition of McCollough alongside Bryce Thompson and Taylor, the Tennessee defensive backfield is starting to look pretty scary.
What Pruitt had to say about McCollough:
“Jaylen is a guy that we felt like had ball skills. Really today, as far as spring ball goes, I only remember him intercepting one other ball in 14 practices. But he found two today. One of them, I thought was a really good break and the other one was kind of like an alley oop. He has ball skills. He is a smart guy. He is learning the system. He is showing really good toughness in the spring. He’s a guy that just has to continue to grow and work back there.”