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Can quarterback Jimmy Holiday spark the Tennessee offense as a freshman?

Could he take Jauan’s wildcat role?

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

All of the headlines following the 2020 recruiting cycle centered around Harrison Bailey — and for good reason. The highly-ranked quarterback prospect out of Georgia could bring Tennessee a potential answer under center, something that they haven’t had since Josh Dobbs.

Bailey committed to Tennessee way back in 2018 and never came off of that pledge. He took all the steps to enroll early, and now will give himself at least a fighting chance to play early on in his career. If nothing else, he can dive into Jim Chaney’s offense and really begin to learn.

But there’s another quarterback enrolling early at Tennessee — one with a much different flavor about him. Three-star Jimmy Holiday signed with the Volunteers as an athlete, flipping from TCU during the early signing period. While he’s lacking the polish of Bailey in the pocket, there’s an electricity to Holiday that might just provide him with a path to playing time.

Holiday’s chances are helped by Tennessee’s lack of production at the position. Jarrett Guarantano returns for his senior season, looking to finally play with some consistency this year. Sophomores Brian Maurer and JT Shrout also return, each after seeing some playing time in 2019. Guarantano is the clear favorite to win the job, but that doesn’t mean Jim Chaney won’t take the opportunity to get creative if the offense becomes stagnant.

Last season Tennessee turned to Jauan Jennings in ‘wildcat’ formations, could Holiday walk into that role this year?

He certainly could, and he could also be more explosive than Jennings was. Holiday’s burst and agility look special on tape. The long speed is there, though that’s not his most special trait to me. It’s his ability to pick through the teeth of a defense and make people miss.

Holiday is going to get a fair chance to play quarterback at Tennessee to start. He was announced as a quarterback by Jeremy Pruitt back in December, but the door was left open for him to do other things as well.

“Jimmy Holiday is a guy that’s a phenomenal athlete,” Pruitt said after the early signing period. “He’s one of those guys that you’re seeing changing the game in pro football right now. His versatility, how he can run the football, different types of run games that he can do — anytime he has the ball in his hands, he’s got a chance to go the distance.”

Holiday wasn’t asked to do much as a passer at the high school level. It’s tough to give him a fair evaluation with the limited tape of him attacking down the field, but Holiday did show some ability in the short game while rolling out. Chaney will be starting at ground zero with Holiday as a true quarterback, though. His performance and response during the spring could go a long way to determining his long-term fit at the position.

During spring practice and the Orange and White Game, it’s going to be interesting to see what Chaney puts on his plate. How will the offense change when he’s in? Will he get looks at receiver or running back? Will they allow him a chance to operate within the traditional offense? If so, clearly, spring is the time to try it.

As a true quarterback, Holiday is a long-term developmental prospect. But as an athlete, Holiday is a guy that can certainly come in and help the offense right away.