4 reasons Tennessee football should bench Jarrett Guarantano, try a new starting QB
He took the reins in the middle of the 2017 season after losing the preseason competition to Quinten Dormady and held off Keller Chryst to retain the job last season.
Tennessee’s controversy-free quarterback situation didn’t last long.
A 1-3 start, which includes subpar play from Guarantano, opens the door to the possibility of Tennessee changing quarterbacks for Saturday’s game against No. 3 Georgia (4-0).
Coach Jeremy Pruitt replaced Guarantano with Brian Maurer during the third quarter of a 34-3 loss to Florida and, during a postgame news conference, questioned Guarantano’s ability to inspire his teammates.
Here are four reasons why the Vols should bench Guarantano and turn to Maurer or J.T. Shrout as the starting quarterback. (Note: On Saturday, we examined the argument in favor of sticking with Guarantano.)
Figure out what you have in Brian Maurer and J.T. Shrout
Neither Maurer nor Shrout was a ballyhooed recruit. Each signed as a three-star prospect. And neither has looked particularly inspiring in limited playing time this season.
But why not spend the rest of the season figuring out whether either freshman has the potential to be Tennessee’s quarterback of the future? At this point, with a bowl bid a long shot, how much do the Vols have to lose?
Best case scenario, Maurer or Shrout blossoms and returns as the incumbent next season to compete with four-star commitment Harrison Bailey. Worst case scenario, they both flop and you know entering 2020 that neither can be counted on, upping the importance of preparing Bailey and perhaps adding a transfer.
Send message to recruits: You can play quickly here
Pruitt’s path to a lengthy tenure starts with convincing the UT administration that he needs time to stack up good recruiting classes. And then he needs to persuade top recruits to come.
Pruitt can’t sell the chance to play for a power program. The Vols haven’t been that for a long time. He can sell immediate playing time.
What better way to send a message to recruits that UT is the place to be if you want to play early than by benching Guarantano, a junior with 22 career starts, in favor of a freshman?
At least Brian Maurer can run
One way to spice up a bad offense is to insert a running quarterback. Maurer is the most athletic of the bunch. He showed that in mop-up duty against Chattanooga, when he rushed four times for 16 yards, including a 6-yard scoring run on a designed sweep off left tackle.
Tennessee’s offensive line is improving, but it’s still not a team strength. Through four weeks, Georgia was tied for second in the SEC in sacks, so it would be beneficial to have a quarterback who can scramble when the pocket inevitably breaks down or keep that pass rush in check with designed quarterback runs.
Of course, you could debate the long-term feasibility of deploying a quarterback of Maurer’s size – listed at 193 pounds, he’s UT’s smallest scholarship quarterback – as a runner against SEC defenses.
Send a message to Jarrett Guarantano that he needs a fresh start
You’d be hard-pressed to find a quarterback who endured as much during his Tennessee career as Guarantano has. He played for two head coaches and a different offensive coordinator and position coach in each of his four years. He got beat up behind bad offensive lines in 2017 and ’18.
He enjoyed some highs, leading Tennessee to upset wins over Auburn and Kentucky last season. Mostly, though, he’s been part of a bad era of football. The Vols are 7-15 with Guarantano as their starting quarterback.
Perhaps it is best for all parties concerned if Guarantano became a graduate transfer after this season and Tennessee and Guarantano each pursued a clean break.
Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at email@example.com 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.