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Tennessee Football Recruiting: Top Target Guarantano Announcing Today

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I would have preferred sad pizza Urban Meyer, but then I might have needed to knock on wood.
I would have preferred sad pizza Urban Meyer, but then I might have needed to knock on wood.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

What is this?

New Jersey quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, the Vols' top offensive target in the 2016 class, will decide between Ohio State, Tennessee, and Rutgers on Wednesday afternoon.

I haven't been following recruiting for the 2016 class because I'm still trying to learn the names of the 2015 recruits. Who is this now?

Guarantano is a consensus four-star quarterback ranked sixth pro-style quarterback in the 247 Composite and one of only three quarterbacks in the top ten to remain uncommitted. Listed at 6'4 and 200 pounds, he has ideal height for a quarterback, but he'll need to add strength and weight to survive at the college level. Like current Vols starter Joshua Dobbs and 2015 commitment Sheriron Jones, Guarantano is a pro-style quarterback with the athleticism of a dual-threat quarterback-- although he can (and does) make plays with his feet, he prefers to use his speed and elusiveness to escape pressure while keeping his eyes downfield for the big play.

Does he have any highlights I can watch?

Indeed.

I thought the Vols already had a four-star quarterback committed in the 2016 class. What happened to him?

Four-star North Carolina quarterback Austin Kendall committed to Tennessee last year, but head coach Butch Jones has a personal relationship with the Guarantano family dating back to his time as a graduate assistant at Rutgers (1990 to 1992) where he coached Jarrett Guarantano's father, James. Whether Jones kept in contact strictly because of the preexisting relationship or because he thought Guarantano was the better fit for his offense, the Vols' continued pursuit of another quarterback must have rankled a longtime commitment like Kendall. For example, Jones talked to Guarantano on Christmas Day, Guarantano tweeted about it, and that tweet was subsequently retweeted across the Tennessee blogosphere.

When former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian left the Vols for the NFL, Tennessee rearranged the quarterback recruitment board, and Kendall became the odd man out. That said, don't feel too bad for the one-time future Vol, as he landed on his feet in the Oklahoma recruiting class.

It's April-- I watched the Masters all weekend and the Orange & White game is coming up. Why should I care about a possible commitment from a guy who won't enroll until January 2016 at the earliest? Don't the Vols have enough quarterbacks already?

With three four-star quarterbacks signed to the 2015 recruiting class in Jauan Jennings (Early Enrollee), Quinten Dormady (EE), and Sheriron Jones, the Vols have restocked depth at the quarterback position behind starter Joshua Dobbs. However, such a wealth of talent in one class almost certainly guarantees that at least one of those three will transfer or change positions, simply because there isn't enough roster space to carry that many quarterbacks. Most elite programs take at least one quarterback in every recruiting class for depth and injury reasons, and Guarantano is talented enough that that the Vols would be foolish to pass on his commitment.

Moreover, there's a really good reason for Tennessee to want Guarantano's commitment that has nothing to do with the depth chart or his talent: elite quarterback recruits tend to be very effective peer recruiters. Talented high school football players want to play with other talented players, and an elite quarterback is a visible sign that the program is healthy and competitive. For example, of the top ten pro-style quarterbacks in the 247 Composite, seven are currently committed, and all to programs with either recent success (Ole Miss, Stanford) or significant pedigree (Michigan, Miami). Current quarterback commitments like Jacob Eason (Georgia) and Malik Henry (Florida State) play against other elite recruits in 7-on-7 tournaments, train with other recruits at national and state camps (NFTC and the Opening), and reach out to other elite players on twitter. While an elite player at another position like defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie or former Vol Vic Wharton can make an impact recruiting players, quarterbacks have natural recruiting advantages due to the nature of the position.

Rank Name Stars Composite Rating Team
1 Jacob Eason 5 0.9976 Georgia
2 Malik Henry 5 0.9941 Florida State
3 Shea Patterson 5 0.9904 Ole Miss
4 KJ Costello 4 0.9833 Stanford
5 Dwayne Haskins 4 0.9633 none
6 Jarrett Guarantano 4 0.9411 none
7 Jack Allison 4 0.9347 Miami
8 Austin Kendall 4 0.9249 Oklahoma
9 Brandon Peters 4 0.9035 Michigan
10 Devon Modster 4 0.8998 none

Okay, now I'm starting to understand. Does Guarantano have any talented friends?

Well, now that you mention it, Guarantano's home state of New Jersey has two elite players that the Vols would love to lure to Knoxville: defensive tackle Rashan Gary and running back Kareem Walker.

Rashan Gary

Hometown (School) Stars Composite Position Rank National Rank Team
Paramus, NJ (Paramus Catholic) 5 0.9991 1 1 none

Gary is the number one ranked defensive tackle and also the number one ranked player in the nation. An overpowering blend of size (6'4, 290 pounds) and speed, Gary is a difference maker in any scheme. The Vols have offered Gary and continue to work to get him on campus, where Butch Jones feels confident he has the facilities and support to go head-to-head against any program in the nation. Alabama and Michigan are both pursuing Gary with abandon.

Kareem Walker

Hometown (School) Stars Composite Position Rank National Rank Team
Wayne, NJ (De Paul Catholic) 5 0.9939 1 10 Ohio State

While Walker is the top ranked running back in the 247 Composite, he may not be at the top of Tennessee's running back wish list, which seems to have North Carolina running back BJ Emmons and Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield on it in some order. However, the Vols would like to take a better look at Walker, a power back with great balance and vision. Walker is currently committed to Ohio State, but some of Urban Meyer's recruiting shenanigans in the last class have apparently given him second thoughts. First, running backs coach Stan Drayton left for the Chicago Bears after National Signing Day, despite assuring recruits that he had no such intention. Detroit Cass Tech (and Ohio State signee) running back Mike Weber was so incensed by the move that he threatened not to show up to Columbus and attended a workout wearing University of Michigan apparel. Second, Buckeyes coaches either never had any intention of keeping promises to Walker that he would be the only running back recruited in the 2016 class or the coaching change from Drayton to former Notre Dame running backs coach Tony Alford changed the recruiting board. In any case, the recent commitment of four-star running back Demario McCall to Ohio State may have Walker reconsidering his commitment to the Buckeyes.

What are the chances that Guarantano chooses Tennessee tomorrow?

With Guarantano and his family's longstanding relationship with Butch Jones, the Vols look like the team to beat. Guarantano's other two finalists are national champion Ohio State, which currently has a depth chart crowded with young talent, and in-state Rutgers, which has struggled in recent years under head coach Kyle Flood. The current 247 Sports Crystal Ball is heavily weighted in favor of the Vols, with experts like SBNation's recruiting director Bud Elliott and 247 National Writer JC Shurbutt both expecting Tennessee to land the talented quarterback.