Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is facing an impossible situation. His seat is on fire, he’s losing more and more support by the day. SEC play has barely even begun. Everyone knew that Tennessee had plenty of talent to replace this season, but that’s what good teams do every year — reload. After all, this is year five of the Butch Jones regime.
However, Tennessee’s case seems like much more of a rebuild. The problem is, Jones doesn’t have time for that. He shouldn’t be in this position, if his recruiting is as good as the numbers suggest.
But here we are. Through five games, the Volunteer offense ranks 117th in the FBS in terms of yards per game. Tennessee scored just 17 points against mighty UMass. They were shutout for the first time since 1994 against Georgia.
You can argue that the offensive system is the issue, which I think is totally warranted, but we also know that it’s not going to change. It hasn’t changed through Mike Bajakian, Mike DeBord or Larry Scott, so it’s probably not going to change in the middle of the season either. It’s Butch’s system.
What can change is the quarterback, which is exactly what Butch Jones opted to do.
Quinten Dormady was frustrating to watch in this particular system. You didn’t see improvements mechanically, you didn’t see him ever really look comfortable. You also saw a lot of wasted opportunities in the read option plays. That’s the area where Jarrett Guarantano is going to have to make gains.
Guarantano’s legs are going to add a dimension to this offense — a dimension that’s sorely needed. John Kelly can only do so much when the defense knows what is coming at them. Granted, you’ve seen him succeed some against stacked boxes, but he can’t do it all.
With Guarantano, you get a new wrinkle. He’s not the runner that Josh Dobbs was, but few are. If he can add anything to this rushing attack, then the change will be worth it. Just taking some focus off of Kelly is huge.
We don’t know who Guarantano is as a passer yet, either. The limited action he’s seen doesn’t exactly give me confidence, but Dormady wasn’t taking any steps forward either. If you’re Butch Jones, this was absolutely a move that you had to make. Things weren’t changing or getting better, so it was time to make a move.
And let’s be clear, this move isn’t going to solve all the issues here. We’re probably going to see Guarantano struggle. That’s part of it — but you have to try. I’ve been calling for the move for a couple of weeks. I’m excited to see it play out, but I’m keeping my expectations in check.