Back in late September, I wrote that Tennessee Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was no longer a SEC starter and should be benched by UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
At the time, it was an opinion that was far from unique. The majority of the Vol fan base was calling for Brian Maurer or JT Shrout to replace Guarantano.
Pruitt, in fact, eventually did bench Guarantano in favor of Maurer.
And Maurer provided a spark for Tennessee (until suffering multiple head injuries). It was absolutely the right move by Pruitt to sit Guarantano. The New Jersey native was playing some of the worst football of his collegiate career.
But since being benched, Guarantano has played a key role for the Vols. It could be argued that without Guarantano, Tennessee wouldn’t be 5-5 right now (he certainly played a major role in UT’s wins against South Carolina and Kentucky).
The former four-star recruit hasn’t started a game for the Vols since October 5 against Georgia. But I think it’s clear, after watching Maurer fail to spark the offense in the first half against Kentucky, that Guarantano is the team’s best option right now.
Early in the season, Guarantano was missing wide open receivers, which likely cost the Vols two wins to star the year. In recent weeks, however, Guarantano has looked incredibly sharp.
This across the field pass to Marquez Callaway is an example of a tough throw that not a lot of quarterbacks can make.
Jarrett Guarantano dime + Marquez Callaway box-out rebound = nice touchdown for Tennessee. pic.twitter.com/l0E8Pr3vfx
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) November 10, 2019
Pruitt has the Vols in a position to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2016 in part because of his willingness to adapt on the fly. That’s meant playing all three scholarship quarterbacks (plus Jauan Jennings in the wildcat) at times this season.
Right now, Guarantano has the hot hand. And I think Pruitt would be wise to start him against Missouri.
And it’s not just as a reward to Guarantano for playing well as of late and keeping a good attitude the midst of his struggles. He’s simply Tennessee’s best chance to get to seven regular season wins.
Guarantano’s resurgence this season is the reason that coaches should never give up on players.
I, along with plenty of others, was ready to write off Guarantano after his miscues early in the season. Pruitt, however, never gave up on him. And now it’s paying off for the Vols.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports