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Jeremy Pruitt explains decision to pull Jarrett Guarantano, what it means going forward

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Will this be a competition going forward?

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for Tennessee, the only headline the Volunteers made in The Swamp this year was swapping quarterbacks at halftime. Jeremy Pruitt pulled an ineffective Jarrett Guarantano to start the third quarter, inserting true freshman Brian Maurer into the lineup.

The move immediately netted points, putting a field goal on the board for Tennessee to bring it to a 17-3 Florida lead. After two more drives, Pruitt went back to Guarantano. Tennessee didn’t score for the rest of the afternoon.

“I think Jarrett has lots of ability to be a really good player,” Pruitt said after the loss. “I’ve said that over and over. But there are times where you kind of have to take the bull by the horns and say let’s go. Got to make some plays. You have to have an impact on the people around you.”

By halftime, Guarantano had thrown for a little over 70 yards and two interceptions. Jauan Jennings was responsible for the first turnover, dropping a touchdown pass into the arms of a Florida defender. The second interception appeared to be a miscommunication. Regardless, the Tennessee offense had grown lifeless by the break, sparking the move to Maurer.

“We made a few mistakes there, so we went with Brian,” Pruitt said of the switch. “And to get Jarrett settled down a little bit. Brian came in and did a couple things. He had a really good drive right down the field. Right there at the end he threw a ball into triple coverage. If he throws it on the other side, it’s probably a touchdown.”

Maurer went 4-11 for 44 yards and an interception. It was a tough spot for the true freshman, who only attempted two passes in the previous week against Chattanooga. To his credit though, he did seem to bring an immediate spark.

Making the move to Maurer opens the door to a quarterback competition going forward, but Pruitt and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney do have a bye week to sort through some things.

“It’s a production-based industry,” Pruitt said of the situation. “So who competes the best at practice, who plays the best the last game — you just kind of work on it and see. I felt like last year in our bye week we really improved as a football team. We got so many young guys that are itching to play, but they’re not hardly ready. Maybe in the next two weeks we can get some of these guys.”

A bye week is probably exactly what this program needs right now. The downside? You get the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on the other side of it. Tennessee has a number of spots with an open competition ongoing, but none are more important than the quarterback position.

Through four games, Jarrett Guarantano isn’t doing enough to win football games for Tennessee. But Brian Maurer didn’t exactly look ready to take on the job full time either.

You can probably expect to see Guarantano take the field against Georgia, but the door was opened for change today by the coaching staff.