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Pruitt promises equal reps for all four quarterbacks during fall battle

A new approach.

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive year, the Tennessee quarterback battle will likely turn out to be a two man race. Jarrett Guarantano and incoming grad-transfer Keller Chryst are set to battle it out in fall camp, each looking to be named the starter for Tennessee’s opener against West Virginia.

But don’t tell Jeremy Pruitt that. He’s ready to give each of his four quarterbacks legitimate shots to show what they have.

“We’ll have four guys, we practice four groups,” Pruitt said last week at the final Big Orange Caravan stop. “Those guys all get the same amount of reps and we’ll see how they develop over the summer and into fall camp,”

The other two pieces of the equation are sophomore Will McBride and true freshman JT Shrout, who flipped to Tennessee during the early signing period in December. Shrout made his way to Knoxville over the weekend and is ready to get to work.

“I think for JT and Keller both, Will and Jarrett have 15 practices under their belt and they’ve had four months of being in the system, so those guys are that far behind. I think they will need to spend time to catch up,” Pruitt said.

So how do you catch up with no opportunities to practice? According to Pruitt, the summer workouts and some unsupervised practices led by the players will be big for Shrout and Chryst.

The learning curve for both will be steep, but it’s going to be particularly difficult for Chryst, who is probably the favorite to land the starting job. Jarrett Guarantano looked as good as he ever has in Tennessee’s spring game. That doesn’t tell the whole story, as Pruitt will tell you, but Jarrett helped his case in a game setting on that day. Was it enough to get a leg up on Chryst?

Whoever wins the job will have a pretty solid group of skill position players to work with. Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Brandon Johnson, Josh Palmer, Dominick Wood-Anderson and Ty Chandler will surround the quarterback. That’s a group that has potential, but it’s also a group whose production is almost entirely tied to the play of the man under center.

Regardless of whether or not it’s a four man race or a two man race, it’s the right call to get each quarterback equal repetitions. That’s the only way to develop these players. Mental reps will only get you so far, and it’s been clear from day one that this staff isn’t a big believer in that style of practice. That’s already a big contrast from the previous regime.

We will see that new style of practice on display in August, when Tennessee opens fall camp with all of their new additions.