By Tyler Martin
Special to Tidesports
HOOVER — When Jarrett Guarantano committed to Tennessee in 2016, he had high hopes of winning a SEC title and potentially competing for a national championship.
Two years ago, during his redshirt-freshman year, the New Jersey native was thrown into the fire of SEC play when he started his first career game against South Carolina in the middle of season.
Guarantano started the remaining games, which included a road contest against Alabama, and the Volunteers were 1-5 and winless in the SEC. It was the first time in school history UT was winless in the SEC. Guaranatano threw for 997 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
The program was in turmoil and Guarantano’s development as a quarterback was stunted.
In 2018, the Volunteers made a coaching change and hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
The first season under Pruitt was a breath of fresh air for Guarantano. He helped lead the Volunteers to upset wins on the road against No. 21 Auburn and at home against No. 11 Kentucky. His season stats improved, passing for 1,907 yards and 12 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
“It was a good thing that I went through those experiences when I was a younger player,” said Guarantano at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. “I have learned from it and I am very excited for what the future holds for me. For this year, our team is working very hard to succeed at a high level.”
In order to keep the rebuild, and Guarantano’s growth, at Tennessee on the right track, Pruitt has hired Jim Chaney as offensive coordinator and Tee Martin as an assistant coach. Chaney has had a long history of developing quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Kyle Orton, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm. Martin was the quarterback of the Vols’ 1998 national championship team. Guarantano also has quarterbacks coach, and Heisman-winner, Chris Weinkie at his disposal to lean on.
“Me and Coach Chaney have a good relationship and I’m excited for the season to kick off with him,” Guarantano said. “I enjoy talking ball with him because that enables my mental part of the game and being able to understand what he wants done.”
Senior defensive linemen Daniel Bituli has taken notice of Guaratano’s maturation.
“Jarrett is a great leader,” Bituli said. “You can really see the other quarterbacks, the offense, and the young guys look up to him. He is very comfortable with the offensive scheme he is in right now. Me and him go at it in practice and trash talk all the time, but we know it’s all love.”