After a devastating loss in Columbia, the Vols have now dropped to a 3-5 record with just four games remaining on the schedule. This game followed the trend of much of the season for Tennessee football — difficulty in the trenches, struggles with execution, and just flat out bad bounces. All of those unfortunate circumstances led to losing a 12 point second half lead, and leaving fans once again frustrated at the end of a winnable game.
While he hasn’t been spectacular for much of the season, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been one of the more consistent players for the Vols this year. He has done a solid, balanced job of managing games and limiting turnovers on the offensive side of the ball. The poise and toughness that he has displayed in 2018 shows that he is the right guy to be the starting quarterback this season and possibly into the next 2 years down the road.
With all of that being said, however, a recent NCAA rule change has some Tennessee fans rallying behind the thought of giving freshman quarterback JT Shrout a shot to get some game experience entering his redshirt freshman year. As of the 2018 season, a coach may now opt to use a player in up to four games, while also keeping them eligible to use a redshirt. This rule was instituted to help improve player development, roster depth and a situation such as the Vols have right now — finding out if a player is ready to play at this level without the risk of costing him a year of eligibility.
JT Shrout is a 6-3, 210 pound pro-style QB from Newhall, California. He was graded as the 643rd prospect in the nation, 68th in the state of California, and 26th pro-style QB in the 2017 signing class. During his final season at Hart High School in 2017, the senior would connect on 211 of 414 passes for a bleak 51% completion percentage and 3,064 yards. He would add 27 touchdowns to go along with 25 interceptions. These numbers are indicative of quite an up and down season, but it was prior to his senior year at the QB Collective Camp where he turned the most heads.
In a group comprised of elite prospects such as current Georgia freshman and #1 player in the 2017 recruiting class Josh Fields, current Ole Miss freshman Matt Corral, and many other promising quarterbacks, Shrout stood out above everyone. He was not only praised for his arm strength but also the ability to make a number of “NFL” throws that most prospects don’t have the ability to make at this point in their career. He was so impressive that former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels had some very high praise for Shrout:
“I think of all the quarterbacks who were here, if I were an NFL general manager or quarterback coach, he would be the guy who could step in on day one and fundamentally work within an NFL system,” Rosenfels boasted to Yahoo! sports writer Pete Thamel.
That is some incredibly high praise from someone who has been in the NFL and around some of the best quarterbacks to ever throw a football. And while Shrout would go on to have that statistical roller coaster ride of a senior year, it goes to show that with some good coaching he truly possesses the potential to develop into an elite college QB.
With the new redshirt rule, a lot of Tennessee faithful believe that Shrout should see some playing time in the next four games. Personally, I agree with that sentiment. Guarantano has done a solid job without much to work with in 2018, but playing Shrout would give all 3 returning QBs somewhat of a live-action sample size going into the next season. It will be interesting to see how Coach Pruitt handles the situation as the season concludes.