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Brian Maurer brings Tennessee a shot of energy

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He was outstanding in his first start.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

It took exactly one quarter to figure out who the best quarterback on Tennessee’s roster was on Saturday night against the third ranked Georgia Bulldogs. True freshman quarterback Brian Maurer got the nod over Jarrett Guarantano this weekend for Tennessee.

The early returns? Pretty dang good.

Maurer brought new life to an offensive group that badly needed it mid-season. Guarantano seemed to regress in the first few games of the season, opening the door for something new. Maurer didn’t miss his opportunity.

His confidence was an instant difference maker. Maurer didn’t think too much early on, he was just taking what the defense gave him. He was accurate a quick thinking — two things Tennessee has been lacking through its first four games.

Maurer ended up throwing for 259 yards passing and two touchdowns. He completed 14 of his 28 attempts, throwing one interception against one of the best defenses in the nation.

“He stood in there and made some throws down the field in the first half,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said of Maurer’s performance. “He kind of went through his progressions, he kept his poise. Kept his eyes down the field. Made some nice throws and it enabled us to create some explosive plays that softened them up a little bit so we could run the ball some.”

Maurer got the ball rolling with a 73 yard touchdown to Marquez Callaway. It was a deep shot that was delivered perfectly as Callaway had gotten behind the Georgia secondary. Maurer came back and led an impressive drive right down the field, capping the drive with a touchdown to Jauan Jennings.

His second half was more of a struggle as the Georgia defense ramped up the pressure. Maurer was sacked three times and made his first mistake on an overthrow down the sidelines to Callaway.

“There is probably 8 to 15 plays in the game that he’s going to learn from and learn a lot of lessons from,” Pruitt said. “That maybe we had an opportunity somewhere else, or maybe worked the wrong side of the field. That’s part of maturing and it will be interesting to see moving forward how much he learns from this game and makes adjustments because that’s important to do.”

Maurer is far from a finished product, but it’s tough to deny the difference in how the offense looks last night against a tough opponent. Maurer seemed confident in what he was seeing, which is something Jarrett Guarantano seemed to lose this season.

So there’s no question who will start next week, right? Pruitt wouldn’t commit to anything just yet.

“I have to watch film,” Pruitt said. “I don’t know. I thought Brian competed really hard. I thought Jarrett did a nice job when he was in there. It was good for both of them. It was good for our football team moving forward.”

I think we all know what that film is going to show.

Maurer gives Tennessee fans an ounce of optimism going forward. He gives them a fighting chance against beatable teams like Mississippi State, South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and UAB. He gives Tennessee fans a little bit of hope, which seemed to be totally lost on the 2019 season.

He absolutely has to be the guy going forward and it’s tough to imagine a scenario where he isn’t.