Let’s not mince words, the quarterback will be the most important player on Tennessee’s football team in 2018. The chosen signal caller will likely make or break the Vols’ season and there’s plenty of intrigue around the position that needs breaking down.
Jeremy Pruitt has stated numerous times that the QB battle is just like every other position competition, but let’s be honest here. Everyone will be looking at who Pruitt names as the starter under center while not nearly as many folks will be fixated on the battle for right offensive guard. So, let’s get into the QB options…
Projected Depth Chart:
First string: Jarrett Guarantano (#2), RS So., 6–4, 200 lbs
2017 stats: 86/139 (62%) completions/attempts | 997 yards | 4 touchdowns | 2 interceptions
Second string: Keller Chryst (#19), RS Sr., 6–5, 239 pounds
2017 stats *at Stanford*: 78/144 (54%) c/a | 962 yds | 8 tds | 4 ints
Third string: Will McBride (#17), So., 6–1, 209 pounds
2017 stats: 17/40 (43%) c/a | 152 yds | 1 td | 2 ints
Newcomers : JT Shrout (#12), Fr., 6–3, 210 pounds
I know, I know, I’m assuming that Jarrett Guarantano is going to be the Vols’ starting quarterback and that doesn’t sit well with everybody. Jarrett was not good in 2017. Plain and simple.
He held on to the ball too long at times and he wasn’t as mobile as some had hoped he would be. He has a ton of things to work on in the technical portion of his game and to top that off, while he’s showed at different points that he has leadership qualities, he still needs to grow into more of a true team leader on and off the field if he wants to take the reigns of Tennessee’s offense. It’s a tall order but I believe it’s far too early to say that he’s not up to the challenge.
So far in fall camp (6 practice sessions completed), Guarantano has looked like the guy. He has a commanding presence, he has more rapport with the receivers than any other QB on the field, and he appears to have the most powerful arm.
Guarantano’s chief competitor for the starting job, Stanford transfer Keller Chryst, has gotten off to a rocky start. While he certainly hasn’t looked bad, per se, he simply hasn’t looked that good. At least not good enough to take the top spot from Guarantano. Obviously, this could just be a product of nerves associated with coming into a brand new program and being thrust into the spotlight, but nonetheless, Chryst hasn’t shown in a significant way that he’s going to take the job from Jarrett.
Additionally, Chryst seems to be much more of a dink-and-dunk, short yardage type of QB. This is not a bad thing at all, but if Guarantano can raise the level of his game, he could be much more versatile than Chryst in offensive coordinator Tyson Helton’s new system.
The primary advantage that Chryst could have is that he’s simply older and has more experience, having played in 23 games while in Palo Alto with a record of 11–2 as a starter. Like I mentioned before, Guarantano still has to grow and mature while Chryst is already ahead in that department. How big of a factor this plays into the final decision is anyone’s guess but it has to be mentioned when analyzing the QB battle.
Beyond Guarantano and Chryst, there’s also sophomore Will McBride and true freshman JT Shrout. McBride flashed at times when he was forced into action during the 2017 season, but he just didn’t seem ready for primetime, which was understandable considering the circumstances. For a freshman, JT Shrout has looked great during fall camp but who knows how he will react if he has to face hardnosed SEC defenses instead of the kind environment of the practice field.
To me, this is Guarantano’s job to lose. He’s looked like the man from the first day of fall camp. Obviously, I’m not on the coaching staff and they may be looking for something different than all of us media observers but in my view, Jarrett is the man for the job at this point.