Why Harrison Bailey, Brian Maurer got most QB reps at Tennessee football practice Monday

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

Jeremy Pruitt used Tennessee football’s first practice of its open week to focus on players that didn’t play much — or at all — against Alabama.

Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer took most of the quarterback reps Monday, Pruitt said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference. 

“It was more like fall camp,” Pruitt said. “So we got a lot of guys reps. It was good for our football team.”

Tennessee (2-3) returned to a normal practice routine Tuesday, Pruitt said, as the Vols work through their open week before facing Arkansas (2-2) on Nov. 7 in Fayetteville. But the Vols will continue to use the break before returning to game preparation for teaching and evaluation, including at quarterback.

“We’ve had lots of guys in the last two days,” Pruitt said. “We really went back and slowed it down and really teaching things conceptually. A lot of walk-throughs, a lot of meeting time, then go do it out on the field. We’ve tried to make it as much like a fall camp as we can. (Tuesday night), you know, you’re seeing guys that have not played much of a role this season that are starting to show up. So that’s good to see.”

The Vols have played four quarterbacks through five games, but three have seen only a single series.

Jarrett Guarantano has started every game this season for Tennessee. The senior, who has started 30 games in his career, has completed 61.5% of his passes for 914 yards and six touchdowns.

He has thrown three interceptions among his six turnovers — all of which came in the second half against Georgia and first half against Kentucky. Pruitt has continued to back Guarantano amid the struggles.

Guarantano was 13-for-24 passing for 162 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no turnovers in UT’s 48-17 loss to Alabama on Saturday. He had only thrown for 162 yards in his three previous appearances against the Crimson Tide. 

“I think he done a really nice job (last) week being mature about it and focusing on the things he can improve,” Pruitt said Saturday. “I thought he done a nice job managing the offense today. Had some scrambles out there, was accurate on some throws. So that was good to see.”

J.T. Shrout replaced Guarantano for a series against Kentucky. He threw an interception on his only pass attempt and Guarantano re-entered the game. Bailey played on Tennessee’s final series against the Wildcats. He was 1-for-4 passing for 24 yards. 

Maurer received a single series against Alabama, rushing once for 15 yards and completing a pass for a yard. 

“Based off reps, we felt like Brian earned it this week,” Pruitt said. “We gave him the opportunity and I felt like he done a pretty nice job in there.”

Maurer was sidelined during the preseason with a hamstring injury. Bailey, a highly touted freshman, missed the first week of preseason practices while in COVID-19 contact-tracing protocol. 

“During fall camp, it’s a time that you teach,” Pruitt said. “You go do it on the field, you come back and watch practice, and then you do it over again. There are certain positions on our team, whether it’s the backups maybe have very little experience at the collegiate level, and some of these guys missed the majority of fall camp, therefore they’ve not been able to create a role on the team. 

"It says nothing about their potential and their ability. They’ve been coming on.”

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at michael.wilson@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.