A year ago, Jarrett Guarantano found himself in the middle of a quarterback battle with Quinten Dormady. Butch Jones ended up rolling with Dormady due to his seniority and the rest is history.
Heading into the 2018 season, Guarantano finds himself in the exact same spot, except this time with a different challenger in Keller Chryst, the grad-transfer from Stanford.
Guarantano has not been guaranteed the starting job this year, but neither has Chryst. Both will duel it out in fall camp and hopefully Jeremy Pruitt goes with the best player and not who he feels the most comfortable with ala Jones.
So what could Guarantano do to improve his game in 2018? Let’s take a look.
1) Quicker/Better Decision-Making
Perhaps the most glaring weakness in Guarantano’s game was his inability to pull the trigger in a timely manner. This resulted in 30 sacks allowed through his seven starts.
Now of course, part of that equation was Tennessee’s bad offensive line, but there were multiple instances where Guarantano held onto the ball for too long. These plays usually resulted either in an incompletion or sack.
In the following play, South Carolina sends just three rushers, which allows Guarantano plenty of time to make a throw. He passes up both an open Ethan Wolf and John Kelly that would’ve netted positive yardage.
The Vols were in a four-receiver set with Kelly coming out of the backfield. I’d rather Guarantano take a sack than throw a pick, but there’s no reason he should’ve taken that sack.
Here he is again passing up an open Wolf as he scrambles out of the pocket. The Gamecocks send four on this play, but Guarantano is able to buy time with his legs. As he begins to head up field, he freezes the linebacker and corner just enough for a wide open throwing lane to Wolf. Instead, he decides to use his legs and takes a sack - which segues perfectly into the next point.
He won’t survive a full season in the SEC getting taken down at least four times a game.
2) Use Those Legs, Baby!
A pocket passer at heart, Guarantano would much rather throw than run, but that doesn’t change the fact that he can run when he needs to. He is no Josh Dobbs, however, that doesn’t change the fact he can make you pay with his legs.
Here’s a perfect example of using his legs to escape a crumbling pocket for a big gain.
As seen earlier, he can use his mobility to buy time in the pocket as well - and he can throw on the run, too.
One characteristic that is certain about this kid is that he’s tough as hell. Not only does he bounce right back from big hits, there have also been many instances where he’s stood tall in the pocket and delivered a beautiful throw.
There are two plays that stick out and both were against Kentucky. In this first play, Guarantano takes a huge hit but is able to connect with Wolf on a big 3rd-and-10 in UT territory.
Later in the second, he converts another big third down and the Vols scored a touchdown soon after to pull back within one.
The fact that Guarantano is able to make some many effective plays within and outside of the pocket shows his true potential as a quarterback. Jeremy Pruitt himself even recently commented on Guarantano’s toughness when they played against Alabama last season.
“The only thing that I know about JG... is he’s got arm talent, he can run and he’s tough as nails, because we beat him up pretty good last year.” - Pruitt, via govols247.com
A tough quarterback not only makes plays on the field, but can affect the psyche of their team unlike any other position in the game. If he can just continue to develop this trait, there is no doubt it will pay off big time.
4) Continue The Maturation Process
The ball is in Guarantano’s court on this one. So far he has done and said all of the right things, from the presser after the Vanderbilt loss to working on his game at the Manning Passing Academy and with quarterback guru George Whitfield during the off-season.
He’s also been noticed in the weight room quite a bit, putting in the necessary work from all angles. I’m sure that being a part of the worst season in team history will leave you hungry.
It seems the work has paid off so far after he won the MVP during UT’s Spring Game back in April. He looked calm, in control, and in-synch with his receivers.
A dream come true, and a wonderful experience the past few days. Life is amazing. pic.twitter.com/IvxJ0Wlbhd— Jarrett Guarantano✞ (@BroadwayJay2) June 24, 2018
It seems like he has come a long way since the Georgia Tech game, where he appeared to be discontent with the fact that he was not playing while the Vols were struggling on offense.
It certainly helps to have a stern figure in Pruitt guiding him along.
5) A quicker release on the ball
The most obvious of the five, but only because Guarantano himself has recently stated that he is working on this aspect of his game in particular during the off-season.
We all know the kid can sling the ball. His wind-up and delivery can be too slow at times, creating opportunities for the defense to make a play on the ball. If he can get rid of the ball quicker than it would open up the field tremendously.
This takes reps - there is no way around it and the only way to improve in this area is to continue to work at it. Fortunately, he has been doing just that as mentioned earlier.
Improvement in these areas would be a huge development for Tennessee in 2018 and beyond. He has all the tools to get there - now it’s time to put it all together.