By: Rachel Ward
The All Vol Call In Show Fourth year junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has seen first hand this season the backlash that can come with performances that don’t measure up to expectations. Predicted in the pre season to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC, Guarantano’s fourth year was one many thought would be a breakout year of stardom.
Photo: 247 Sports
In College Pro Football Focus rankings, SEC quarterbacks were ranked on a combination of factors including passer rating, big time throws and adjusted completion percentage, which factors out dropped or throw away passes. When PFF College used these factors in May, Guarantano was the second highest graded quarterback in the SEC, ahead of names such as Jake Fromm and Joe Burrow. The only quarterback graded higher? Tua Tagovailoa. To PFF and many Vol fans across the nation, it was Guarantano’s year to shine.
Images: @PFF_ College Twitter
However, this season has instead included the Vols’ QB1 losing out on his starting position and has included some immense criticism from the Tennessee fan base — criticism that Guarantano has seen and heard both on and off the football field.
Performance was rocky for Guarantano as the season opened with losses to Georgia State and BYU. As play on the practice field continued to not translate to game time, Guarantano lost his starting position to Brian Maurer at the start of the Georgia game.
The one play that seemed to be the low point in Guarantano’s season was in Tuscaloosa when he went “rogue” on a quarterback sneak, causing a fumble yards from a Tennessee touchdown. Alabama ran it all the way back and any chance of the Vols putting up a fight with Alabama was over. What seemed like the trenches of Guarantano’s season, though, has turned into somewhat of the wake up call he needed. He commented further on the play a week later.
“It was some miscommunication with the coaches and myself and miscommunication with the whole offensive line. I went in the next day and apologized to the coaches and the players and I asked them for forgiveness,” Guarantano said in the post game South Carolina press conference. “I said I was gonna work my tail off from now on. Being able to bounce back, the only way I know how to is get back to work with my teammates and really strive to get the next win.”
When asked what advice he has been given to keep his head up this season, Guarantano mentioned his family’s advice.
“You rely on your religion. I have family texting me to smile everyday and that brings a lot of life to me. That’s all I can ask for. I’m living. I’m with my guys everyday,” Guarantano said.
Junior offensive lineman Trey Smith spoke to 247 Sports about the way Guarantano has handled the criticism and outside noise.
“Jarrett is taking it really well. He’s coming to work everyday. He’s unbothered by it,” Smith said. “He’s come to work day in and day out, not letting it affect his game because that’s the type of human being he is. That’s the type of man he is.”
On the Uprising
Following a loss to Georgia, Jeremy Pruitt had positive remarks to make about his quarterback through the adversity.
“Jarrett’s a guy that will help us win football games down the road. I guarantee you that by his attitude and work ethic,” Pruitt said a week prior to Guarantano helping the Vols to victory over Mississippi State.
Through losing his starting position, Pruitt noted Guarantano’s attitude has been positive and supportive on the sidelines. Guarantano referred to J.T. Shrout and Maurer as “little brothers” in the post game South Carolina press conference as he said that “there is no competition (for the quarterback position). If the team wins, everyone is happy.”
Pruitt’s comment about Guarantano helping the team win games has been seen as true in the past few weeks. Following Maurer’s concussion in the Georgia game, Guarantano entered against South Carolina after Shrout started off the game. His off the bench performance was one of the best performances of his career as he completed 11 of 19 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. He exited the game early due to a hand injury that needed surgery.
Photo: Connor Morss, The Daily Beacon
Another win was notched in the season the following weekend against UAB. It could have been a game Guarantano chose to sit out following surgery, but he played through it. To him, he owed it to his teammates.
“I don’t like how I started off the season, honestly, the way I did,” Guarantano said following the UAB game. “I think my teammates deserve this from me, and if I’m able to help them out in any way, I think I should. Guys were saying ‘just chill out this week’ or ‘wait until your rehab’ and everything and I couldn’t do it.”
“I love my teammates and they battle for me and I battle for them many a time,” Guarantano continued. “It really means a lot to me, for the coaches also, to keep faith in me. We had some rough patches at the beginning of the year, but I think we’re really starting to pick it up, and even going through this injury, I knew that there wasn’t an option for me to sit down because these guys had so much faith in me and gave me so much love over the course of time that I couldn’t do that to them.”
Guarantano’s most recent “off the bench” performance resulted in a victory over Kentucky on the road. Pruitt chose to have Guarantano start the second half after Maurer played the entirety of the first half. He completed 7 of his 8 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns, giving the Vols a comeback win.
When asked about the trust Guarantano earned from the coaches and the team with the win over Kentucky, Pruitt made a few statements.
“Well, I’ve trusted Jarrett all along. But, trust is earned and it’s a lot of times by your actions. He knows that,” Pruitt said. “He’s worked hard to improve. He had a great game tonight and we wouldn’t have won without him.”
In a post game interview, Guarantano was asked about the conversations that happened with the guys in the locker room when he found out he’d be taking over in the second half.
“They call me the sixth man in the locker room and it’s pretty funny, but I don’t think I earned anything,” Guarantano said. “I really love my team and do it for them and like I said before, I didn’t start the season off the right way like I wanted to and to be able to come in and get some wins for these guys, it means a lot to me and it means a lot to them too.”
While Pruitt has not revealed who will be starting at quarterback against Mizzou, he has faith in Guarantano. According to Wes Rucker of 247 Sports, Guarantano showed appreciation for this faith.
“Coach Pruitt pulls me aside every single day and tells me he believes in me. It’s hard to put into words how much that means to me,” Guarantano said.