What we learned from UT Vols spring game: Jarrett Guarantano heats up after slow start
“As the (first-team offense) went, they started taking a little bit what they were getting, checking the ball down, spreading the ball around a little bit," coach Jeremy Pruitt said.
The White, led by quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, featured the first-team offense and second-team defense. The Orange included the second-team offense and first-team defense.
Here are five things we learned.
Jarrett Guarantano improves as game progresses
Guarantano and his unit got off to a sluggish start. The White punted on their first three possessions. The offensive line offered shaky pass protection.
Guarantano found his form on the fourth drive. He completed a 31-yard dart over the middle to Jauan Jennings to extend the drive on third down and capped it with a 4-yard touchdown to Dominick Wood-Anderson.
“As soon as we hit that (pass to Jennings), then we started getting on pace and started to get a little rhythm," Guarantano said. "We kind of were dragging at first. That was probably my fault. I’ll take the blame for that.”
Guarantano followed that 78-yard scoring drive with an 84-yard drive ending with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Josh Palmer. Guarantano's 52-yard pass to Marquez Callaway, who burned a walk-on cornerback in coverage, highlighted the drive.
Guarantano added a 7-yard touchdown completion to Jennings on a beautifully executed fade route. That duo connected for another score late in the fourth quarter.
Guarantano finished 19-of-37 passing for 198 yards with four touchdowns. He was named the game's most valuable player for the second consecutive season.
Jeremy Banks seizes the moment
Don't tell sophomore running back Jeremy Banks that spring games are sort of meaningless. Banks hurdled cornerback Terrell Bailey after catching a swing pass to pick up a few extra yards.
Banks endeared himself to fans last season with his hard-nosed style. But he fell out of the playing rotation after having bouts with fumbles and penalties.
Banks rebounded with a strong spring and should factor into the rotation next fall. He finished with 23 yards on seven carries and added five receptions as the Orange team's feature back.
Shanon Reid campaigns for starting job
Daniel Bituli returns as the starter at one inside linebacker spot, but the other spot is up for grabs, with Darrin Kirkland Jr.'s college career likely finished due to knee issues.
Shanon Reid started alongside Bituli on Saturday and helped his cause by leading all players with 10 tackles.
Backup quarterbacks are inconsistent
Brian Maurer fumbled the exchange on his first snap. He was intercepted during the third quarter by fellow freshman Jaylen McCollough.
McCollough also intercepted Maurer in the fourth quarter.
Maurer, an early enrollee who projects as UT's third-string quarterback, also had some bright moments. He showed mobility and, aside from the interceptions, made mostly smart decisions.
He was 9-of-13 passing for 118 yards.
Backup quarterback JT Shrout also had an inconsistent day. He was 10-of-19 for 138 yards. Shrout's 14-yard connection with James Brown accounted for the Orange's only touchdown.
Wanya Morris exits spring as a starter
Wanya Morris, a five-star early enrollee, started at left tackle with the first-string offense. The competition will pick up in August after fellow five-star signee Darnell Wright arrives.
And there's the lingering question of whether junior Trey Smith will be cleared to play. He's been out indefinitely since last October due to blood clots in his lungs.
For now, Morris is the odds-on favorite to protect Guarantano's blind side.
OFFSEASON BOUND:How Jarrett Guarantano clicked during the spring
Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.