It was an offensive explosion on the Plains for Tennessee. Jarrett Guarantano, Josh Palmer, Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway took it to Auburn through the air on Saturday afternoon. For the first time against a legitimate opponent, Tennessee fans had some confidence in Tyson Helton’s offense, which had struggled up until this point.
What changed? For one, Helton kept letting Guarantano attack down the field. Tennessee’s receivers kept making plays on the football. But secondly, Helton coached this one from the sidelines instead of his traditional spot in the box.
“I think it’s easier to call the game from the press box, I do,” Jeremy Pruitt said after the game. “My whole life I did — in the press box calling defense. But there comes a point in time when you need to be able to look at people on the sidelines in the eyes. And you get a lot better feel. Sometimes you look at somebody and don’t have to say nothing. You know the look.”
The results are undeniable. Tennessee put up 30 points on one of the nation’s top defenses. They did it differently than they had before all season. Something clearly changed for the better. According to Pruitt, getting Helton closer to his quarterback was the reason why.
“I thought it was important to put him on the field to get him closer to Jarrett,” Pruitt said. “The quarterback position, the ball goes through his hands on every snap. So it’s important that he makes really good decisions, that he’s in control, he understands. I think it’s something that helped us today. I think it helped us in just sideline organization. So I think it was a good move for our staff.”
Guarantano easily had his best game as a Vol, going 21-32 for 328 yards and two touchdowns. His development has been fun to watch this season. It’s almost hard to believe how far he’s come since the new staff arrived.
Above all else, Tennessee fans just wanted to see the arrow begin to point up again. Seeing Guarantano and these receivers playing at a high level on Saturday was the latest example of progress.