For the first time since the Josh Dobbs era, there wasn’t the first mention of quarterback battle in Knoxville. Jarrett Guarantano has the starting gig locked up entering his junior season, finally looking to settle in and become a difference maker within the offense.
With no veterans returning to the quarterback room, Tennessee is left with a couple of green options to backup Guarantano. Redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout and true freshman Brian Maurer make up the rest of the depth chart, creating a pretty large unknown on the roster.
“That’s one of the places that we don’t have an answer yet,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said on Monday. “Nobody’s really separated themself from the other guy. We’ve repped both guys with the twos and we’ll continue to do that. This might be a two week deal, it might be a six week deal.”
While neither has the edge in experience, Shrout does have a year in the program. However, that was under the direction of Tyson Helton. With Jim Chaney now in town, both players were able to start on somewhat equal footing after Maurer arrived in January. Both players signed as three-star prospects out of high school.
So who would enter the game if Guarantano got hurt? Pruitt isn’t going to give us that answer just yet.
“Now, you do have to decide on who you’re going to put in (if Guarantano goes down),” Pruitt said. “That’s probably going to be dictated on who has performed the best this week until somebody can separate themself.”
Both guys had up and down days in the Orange and White Game during the spring. Shrout connected with Tyler Byrd on a deep ball right out of the gate, while Maurer put together a really nice two drive in the hurry up offense in the first half. However, Maurer’s two interceptions on that day and Shrout’s ineffectiveness for the rest of the game don’t give us too much confidence.
With Georgia State in town this Saturday, this could be a spot to see both guys operate — assuming everything goes to plan. The NCAA’s updated redshirt rule would allow Maurer to appear in up to four games while still being able to take a redshirt season. Georgia State and Chattanooga may be two games where we see Tennessee take advantage of that.
While there are still plenty of questions around Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee doesn’t have the luxury of a veteran arm behind him like last year. To be blunt, the Vols can’t really afford for Guarantano to miss too much time in 2019. We’ll see if we get a clearer picture on the backup situation on Saturday afternoon.