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Pruitt: No thought of making a change at quarterback

Tennessee v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tennessee fans got the full Jarrett Guarantano experience on Saturday afternoon in Athens. The fifth-year senior quickly became the Vols’ best chance to win, as Georgia’s front seven made it obvious that Tennessee wouldn’t be able to run the ball early on.

With the offensive line struggling to generate a push, Jim Chaney focused on the passing attack. Although it took a few drives, thanks to several penalties, Guarantano and Josh Palmer finally opened up the Tennessee offense. Guarantano found Palmer for two scores, pushing the Volunteers to a lead before halftime.

To that point, Guarantano had done just about everything as well as he possibly could. Playing within himself — yet also aggressive in the right spots.

And then the second half started.

Guarantano lost two fumbles and threw an ill-advised pick, which flipped the advantage right back to Georgia. To be clear, Guarantano was receiving no help up front, as the Bulldogs overwhelmed Tennessee up front. However, the ball security issue is on Guarantano, and that interception is a play that a fifth-year senior can’t make, no matter what the pressure looks like.

On Monday, Jeremy Pruitt said that he never considered making a change at the position.

“Well Jarrett (Guarantano) is our quarterback,” Pruitt said. “He gives us the best opportunity to have success. When you have 1st and 20, it’s tough to make first downs. When you have 2nd and 15, it’s tough to make first downs. We didn’t do a very good job protecting. We didn’t play very fast on the perimeter. It’s the way the game goes. I played quarterback. When you don’t have a lot of success, the quarterback takes too much blame. When you have a lot of success, the quarterback probably gets too much credit. Offensively, our struggle Saturday was not because of one independent person. It was a team effort. We understand that. It starts with us as coaches to put our guys in a better position to have success.”

Pruitt is obviously correct. No logical person that watched the game can pin this one solely on Guarantano. Pruitt has maintained now for the better part of three years that Guarantano gives the team the best chance to win. Considering the lack of a true spring and offseason that we had in the college football world, you have to believe him, too.

Maybe things would be different if Brian Maurer, J.T. Shrout and Harrison Bailey got a full month of spring practices and an Orange and White Game. Maybe a normal fall camp without quarantine delays could have shaken things up. But that’s not what we got.

Guarantano is what he is at this point. We all know what that is. Tennessee needs this offensive line and defense to carry the load in 2020. On Saturday, they weren’t able to do that, which ultimately delivered an expected result.

As the season goes on, it’s going to be interesting to see if Pruitt’s opinion changes here. There aren’t any redshirt issues to worry about, so he can play anyone he wants at the position without the repercussions of losing a year of eligibility. That will likely be determined by Tennessee’s record going forward.

So we’ll ask you — will Guarantano start for the full season?


Will Jarrett Guarantano start all of the games in 2020?

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