Something has to give with this Tennessee football team because nothing is like it seems. On Saturday, the Florida Gators came into Neyland Stadium and embarrassed the Vols. Florida was sleep walking through the game and it still was never competitive. Tennessee’s defense was holding steadfast for most of the 1st half, but things quickly took a turn just like we’ve seen all season.
This has become an all too familiar situation.
Jeremy Pruitt decided to start Harrison Bailey for the first time in his short Tennessee career. Yet, we’re just as confused with the quarterback situation as we were starting the day.
This Tennessee team continues to find new ways to achieve the same outcome as the previous five losses, but it’s not just the players. The coaching on display weekly has seemed to make things even worse, which isn’t hard to do. Some of these decisions made during the week or on gameday have turned into head scratchers.
What has also become apparent is that Pruitt is tired of answering questions about the quarterback position. But, here’s the problem, he continues to put himself in these situations. It’s our job to ask the question, especially if you aren’t going to name a starter until an hour before kickoff. It wasn’t a secret that Harrison Bailey was going to start against Florida; they even knew. Your former starting quarterback was in “contact tracing” for almost two weeks; it was the right opportunity for the freshman.
Jeremy Pruitt was asked during his postgame press conference about the quarterback competition this week.
“Every week – so you all will never have to ask me this again – every week we see who competes well in practice, who does the best job that we feel like affects the guys around him. And we will do that as long as I’m the head football coach here at every position, so you don’t have to ask me again.”
But here’s where everything has been screwed up. Tennessee has given the backup quarterbacks the runaround for most of the season. It’s been one big game of Yo-Yo, with them never knowing where they stood.
So, I would have to imagine this would hurt their performance and mindset. Since throwing an interception against Kentucky, JT Shrout has spent time on the scout team but had an opportunity two weeks ago for another shot.
What you saw against Florida was Shrout taking advantage of another opportunity he should’ve been given.
If the thinking was that Shrout wouldn’t touch the field again for Tennessee after his interception against Kentucky, then what was the thinking by continuing to start Guarantano. See, none of this makes any sense, and there’s a reason why the questions are still be asked.
It’s not anyone’s fault but the staff. It’s not Jarrett’s fault that he continued to play; it’s the coach’s decision. So don’t blame him for doing what the coaches asked of him.
The Tennessee coaches thought Harrison Bailey was the right call on Saturday, and he put together some nice drives. Bailey performed well; the 11 play, 96-yard touchdown drive was a nice sign of life for the Vols offense. He can be a good quarterback for Tennessee, but he needs more time, which is ok. Bailey will have the opportunity to be the future for the Vols; it’s up to him to take it.
The Vols decided to put JT Shrout into the game early in the 4th quarter, which raised some eyebrows. It was interesting timing, to say the least. Shrout had been receiving some first-team reps since Thanksgiving week; he had worked hard to get back into the fold, especially with Guarantano out. But the fact is, he deserved to show the Tennessee coaches more, which is exactly what he did.
Shrout was also dinged up, with the CBS crew saying he had a labrum injury. JT said he was doing ok, in his postgame availability. According to sources, Shrout is dealing with a labrum injury, but it’s something he can play through, as it’s not that serious.
So what did the quarterback who was thrown to the pasture after his interception against Kentucky does? He led the Vols on consecutive 90+ yard touchdown drives. Now, folks will say he played against Florida scrubs, but I counted at least six starters on the defense. Also, when was the last time you saw Tennessee getting that many different players the football? It’s been a while, I know. Shrout was able to spread the ball around because his teammates appreciate him sticking with this team. It might look small to fans, but it’s a change of pace for the receivers.
Take, for instance, Velus Jones Jr., who Tennessee has not taken advantage of during the first eight games. Jones had four receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown, a beautiful catch in the corner end zone. The reason you saw Harrison and JT throw to him and others was because they go through their progressions. By the way, the touchdown catch by Velus from Shrout wasn’t the only great catch. Harrison Bailey had a beautiful back shoulder throw to Jones on a 3rd down during Tennessee’s scoring drive.
Jarrett Guarantano has done everything the coaches have asked of him, coming off the bench last season to help the team achieve that winning streak. He took care of the offense at times but also hurt them. But again, that’s not on Jarrett; put it on coaching. I think anyone in that building will tell you that it’s been confusing. How can you preach one thing to a QB in the Kentucky game but let the other continue making mistakes? That’s just bad coaching and decision making. The development belongs to the position coach and OC, while the decision comes down to the head coach.
For these reasons, Jeremy Pruitt has failed a unit that should be left to the offensive coaches. If the position coaches and Jim Chaney have been festering this mess on offense, then they deserve the blame as well. Tennessee put itself in this position by not wanting to believe someone else could give them a chance in a game, not just practice. This is why folks are confused, eight games into the season, and we’re still talking about the quarterback.
So, until Tennessee decides who their quarterback will be, we’ll have to keep asking the question.
“Jeremy, what will the quarterback competition look like this week?”
All Images Courtesy Of Tennessee Athletic Communications