Class of '19 Player Profile: Brian Maurer
There is no secret how important the 2019 recruiting class is to Jeremy Pruitt and the Tennessee Volunteers. In multiple interviews this season, Pruitt referenced needing to get his own guys into the program before they could compete at the level they wanted. While Pruitt and Company recruited far better than anticipated during their brief time with the Vols in the 2018 cycle, the combination of a 4-8 season and the handicaps resulting from an odyssey of a coaching search clearly hampered them. The 2019 class represents Jeremy Pruitt’s first class at Tennessee in which he and his staff have had a full year to assemble the players they want. Due to the talent of these players and the emphasis Pruitt has placed on wanting to get his own players into the program, expect to see the young men from this class on the field early and often. Here's an idea of what to expect on the field through Spring Ball and into the fall. We continue our Player Profile series by looking at Ocala, Florida product Brian Maurer.
Tennessee comes into the 2019 season with Redshirt Junior Jarrett Guarantano firmly atop the quarterback depth chart. Vol fans seem to be split down the middle on their opinion of Guarantano. The third-year starter has polarized the fan base, with some admiring the plays that he was able to make behind an awful offensive line in a questionable offense, while others malign a lack of pocket presence and holding the ball too long. Wherever fans fall on their side of the Guarantano debate, everyone has come to respect him for his toughness. Hit after crushing hit, Guarantano endured last season, seemingly hammered on every drop back, even when he got the ball away. The beating he took while continuing to get up and continue playing seemed to endear him to many fans and his teammates alike. Still, should Guarantano have to endure another season of hit akin to 2018, the chances are high that he will at the very least be knocked out of a few games. Should that happen, Keller Chryst is gone to graduation, leaving the Vols with Redshirt Freshman J.T. Shrout returning from last season. Shrout has a live arm and certainly looks the part of a big time, pro-style quarterback. The biggest concern with Shrout coming out of high school was his propensity to turn the ball over. Shrout had thrown over twenty interceptions, having almost as many turnovers as touchdowns. Guarantano kept Tennessee in, and managed to win, a few games last season by being exceptionally efficient with the football. While some may feel that Guarantano didn’t take some aggressive throws that he should have, he avoided the crippling mistakes and back-breaking turnovers for most of the season. In the offense that Jeremy Pruitt wants to put on the field, efficiency is important, as evidenced with the handling of Jeremy Banks’ fumbling issues last season. This means that if Shrout is still throwing the ball to the defense too often in practice, the door could open for the former West Port High School quarterback to get in the mix.
Maurer was the only quarterback that Tennessee signed in the 2019 recruiting cycle. He signed with the Vols during the Early Signing Period, then enrolled early at Tennessee. This means that the young signal caller has been able to get ahead of the curve in learning the new offense that Jim Chaney is installing. Early enrollment also means that Maurer is going to have additional time to work with a pair of noted quarterback coaches. Chaney has developed a laundry list of NFL quarterbacks, with Drew Brees headlining the list. Other players, such as Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter, who, like Brees, Chaney coached under Joe Tiller at Purdue, made NFL Rosters and started games. Former Volunteer quarterbacks that learned under Chaney and made it to the NFL include Tyler Bray, Chris Simms, and Nathan Peterman, who Chaney also coached at Pitt. When added to the development seen from Georgia quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm, it is clear why Chaney is one of the most respected quarterback coaches in the country. Add in a former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback in his own right, Chris Weinke, and Maurer looks to be in an ideal situation to develop his skills quickly to the college game. Tennessee has only three scholarship quarterbacks on their roster, and of the three, only Guarantano has taken a snap in a game. The backup quarterback spot is going to be extremely important for Tennessee this season, and Maurer certainly has an opportunity to figure into that competition, and perhaps even secure the job. He will have decorated coaches to help him develop his skills, as well as additional time on campus to adjust to the college game and learn the offense. This is an ideal scenario for the freshman, but what are the skills he is developing, exactly?
One of the themes of the 2019 recruiting class for Tennessee was to bring in players from winning high school programs. While Maurer’s West Port team went only 2-8 in his senior season, it wasn’t exactly the fault of the offense. West Port averaged over forty points per game in 2018, with Maurer putting up gaudy numbers on offense. As a senior, Maurer threw for over 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns, against just 12 interceptions. He had a 65% completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 106. Even in high school, those are approaching video game numbers, and they become even more impressive when Maurer’s considerable rushing abilities are taken into consideration. Maurer ran for over 400 yards and 6 touchdowns in his senior campaign. While he was rated as a three-star prospect, many in the recruiting world seem to feel that Maurer may have been graded too low. At one of the Elite Eleven Quarterback Camps in the summer of 2018, Maurer worked drills alongside some of the top prospects in the nation. The consensus from those in attendance was that the Ocala standout stole the show with his strong arm and accurate delivery.
Maurer arrives at Tennessee with a big arm. He has the ability to push the ball down the field, but his arm is more on display with his intermediate passes. Maurer can make any throw you ask him to, but his arm is probably best classified as a rifle over a cannon. The stunning deep ball may have to have some air under it, but the slant route will catch a receiver in stride on a line. He has the velocity and accuracy to consistently beat safeties over the middle, getting the ball accurately to a receiver before the defenders can close out a passing lane. Watching his film, the delivery of his out routes stand out. Maurer can throw an out to the wide side of the field on a rope. The ball arrives in a position that his receivers can make a play, and often arrives faster than a corner can anticipate. Maurer also demonstrates on tape his ability to beat coverages with his velocity and accuracy. An interesting item to watch in Maurer’s development will be how he plays within Jim Chaney’s system. At West Port, Maurer was often taking the gunslinger mentality because, for his team to have a chance, he had to. He was the player that often hinged whether or not his team won, so he took risks. Chaney will emphasize offensive efficiency and playing within the offense. Maurer is certainly intelligent enough to integrate himself into an offense, but those gunslinger habits can be difficult to break at times. At the college level, Maurer will serve as a proficient runner. Don’t look for Chaney to create packages to have him carrying the ball regularly, but on scrambles or the occasional quarterback run, Maurer can certainly hurt a defense with his legs. Maurer arrives at Tennessee as a quarterback that looks to have a fair amount of polish already. He has solid footwork, a quick release, and a nice carriage of the ball. West Port operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun, so learning to go under center to take snaps and the finer points of three, five, and seven step drops will be points of development for Chaney and Weinke. At six foot three and one hundred ninety-two pounds, it will be difficult to overlook the similarities in build and mechanics to Tyler Bray. However, also like Bray, Maurer will need to make adding muscle to his frame a priority in order to absorb the punishment that comes with being an SEC quarterback. All things considered; Maurer is a talented new addition with all the tools desired in a pro style quarterback, surrounded by individuals adept at sharpening those tools.
Maurer arrives on campus squarely in the fight to win the backup quarterback job. His early enrollment will lessen the lead that J.T. Shrout has over him, and he should see some live action in the Orange and White game. Due to the offensive line situation, the winner of this battle has a high probability of taking meaningful snaps for Tennessee, potentially getting a start, this season. Maurer presents all the physical attributes hoped for in a pro-style quarterback, but his ability to take coaching, learn from Chaney and Weinke, develop himself mentally, learn the offense, and work on his footwork could be the difference in starting a game as a freshman and taking a redshirt.