Jarrett Guarantano is the guy. Coach Pruitt basically confirmed this about one week ago when he said, “I think we’ve got a starting quarterback” before going on to discuss the question marks surrounding the other position groups — particularly offensive line.
After redshirting his first season in Knoxville, Guarantano battled Quinten Dormady for the starting role in 2017 and graduate transfer Keller Chryst in 2018. Jarrett was ultimately able to win both of these battles. Now, for the first time in Guarantano’s career on Rocky Top he stands alone as the unquestioned starter
Say what you will about Guarantano’s win-loss record — which is not the best indicator of quarterback performance — most fans will admit that he hasn’t exactly been dealt the best hand. He enters this season with his second head coach, and fourth offensive coordinator, in four seasons. Added to this is the fact that Guarantano has been playing behind an offensive line that, while talented, has often been outsized and has struggled to establish the run. This is not a recipe for exceptional quarterback play.
However, there is reason for optimism. Despite the aforementioned challenges Guarantano has produced some impressive statistics. As David Ubben — The Athletic’s writer for all things Tennessee — pointed out in a recent piece, Guarantano improved in on-target passes thrown under 20-yards from 100th nationally in 2017 to 12th in 2018. And, his deep ball accuracy was actually much better than many assume when thinking back to last year. Jarrett has also taken tremendous care of the football during his career, recording a touchdown-to-interception ratio of greater than 3:1.
Guarantano’s statistical performance is set to take another leap in 2019 with the addition of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Coach Chaney has an impressive track record with quarterback play which includes Drew Brees and, more recently, Jake Fromm. Chaney’s offense is demanding of the quarterback, especially at the line of scrimmage. But, as Guarantano enters his fourth season of SEC football he appears capable of rising to the challenge.
Jarrett Guarantano has a special blend of talent, toughness, and leadership skills. He has missed relatively little playing time for the quality and quantity of hits he has taken as a starter.
Guarantano’s availability is crucial, as two inexperienced freshmen sit behind him on the depth chart. Furthermore, he is adept at taking care of the football, something that will be key for a team with relative unknowns on both offensive and defensive lines. For these reasons Jarrett Guarantano is Tennessee’s most important player heading into 2019.