If the top storyline heading into the 2019 season is the direction of the offense under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, then the No. 2 storyline has to be the progress of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
Now entering his fourth season at Tennessee and his second as the starting quarterback, now is when the game starts to slow down a bit for veteran signal callers. Guarantano hasn’t exactly been dealt the greatest set of cards so far in Knoxville, but that could be set to turn around with the hire of Jim Chaney.
“It’s a lot different,” Guarantano said at SEC Media Days, speaking of Chaney’s offense. “I think Coach Chaney really trusts me with the offense, and he has me really calling protections. He has me calling plays, calling my own plays at the line.”
Guarantano arrived under Butch Jones, who had Mike DeBord running his offense in 2016. Larry Scott took over in 2017, then Tyson Helton in 2018. Now it’s Chaney, giving Guarantano a staggering fourth offensive coordinator in four years.
After struggling in his only season with Helton, Guarantano sounds like he’s appreciative of the freedom Chaney is giving him.
“Just meeting with him every day, I get a feel for what he wants and I get a feel for what I really like to do,” Guarantano said. “He’s given me a lot of different things that I’m very happy that I get to take on.”
“Me and Coach Chaney have been catching up a lot. I think we watch film for probably an hour and a half, two hours. I mean, you don’t put a time limit on it. Whenever you feel like you’ve gotten enough for that day, then you head on home.”
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt was particularly positive of Guarantano this week, calling him ‘our quarterback’ and praising how much he can handle mentally.
“The thing that excites me about Jarrett is — you can stand out on the field, you can see his arm talent — you know, me being in the meeting rooms, I know that football really comes easy to him,” Pruitt said at SEC Media Days. “He picks up fast, he can handle a whole lot. What I see that excites me the most is the impact that he’s having on his teammates. I think that’s a true mark of a leader — having a positive impact on the people you’re around. I see him developing and doing that.”
For the first time in his Tennessee career, Guarantano isn’t having to look over his shoulder, either. There isn’t a quarterback battle looming — at least for the starting position. This is Jarrett’s show now, and Tennessee will go as far as he and this young offensive line can take them.