If there’s one positive you can take from that rough opener in Charlotte, it’s the play of Jarrett Guarantano. He certainly didn’t go set the world on fire with his play, but he definitely wasn’t the reason the Vols lost either.
Tennessee got solid production out of Guarantano, which couldn’t really be said at all last year. The offense was put in several negative down and distance situations, producing several difficult third down scenarios. The Vols didn’t covert enough to be competitive against West Virginia, but cleaning up some early down mistakes should go a long way in helping that.
As for Guarantano specifically, it seems like he pleased the coaching staff in his first effort in Tyson Helton’s offense.
“He didn’t turn the football over, which is always a positive at the quarterback position,” Jeremy Pruitt told the media on Monday. “I thought he was accurate. There’s probably three or four plays out there, maybe when we had RPOs on where he could have took the pass option and he didn’t. But I thought Jarrett done really well for his first game.”
Guarantano finished his efficient day 19-25, throwing for 172 yards and one touchdown.
“There’s lots of things that he could improve on and he knows that,” Pruitt said. “I thought he showed toughness, he took a couple of hits and hung in the pocket. He made a good decision down at the goalline on third and two and sprinted out. There wasn’t nothing there and he got back to the line of scrimmage which allowed us to go for it on fourth down. He completed some third down balls, so I thought there were a lot of positives.”
Tyson Helton found success attacking the sidelines and taking advantage of West Virginia softer coverage looks. He chose not to attack down the field, which was interesting considering how much we saw the deep ball in the spring. It was a fairly conservative start for the new-look Tennessee offense, which ended up featuring Tim Jordan on the ground for most of the day.
Will Helton open things up a bit with a couple of inferior opponents coming to town over the next two weeks? Probably so. Guarantano’s next big test will come against the Florida Gators, a little under three weeks from now. The strides he and the offense make over the next two weeks could be the determining factor in that one.
For now though, it’s good to just see some improvement under center.