We are now 72 days away until it is football time in Tennessee. Like most of the people that are reading this article, I am eagerly excited about college football being around the corner.
Over the last few days, I have seen a lot of hype around this 2020 Vols football team. Sports Illustrated put out an article on Wednesday stating Tennessee is the most undervalued team in the SEC this season.
CBS Sports’ Ben Kercheval even said to not overlook the Big Orange as a longshot for the SEC East this fall. The Vols will have one of the better defenses in the SEC with DB Bryce Thompson and LB Henry To’oto’o leading the charge. Tennessee will also have the best offensive line in the conference this fall as well.
However, if Tennessee wants to have a chance to win the SEC, the Vols’ QB play must improve.
To call Tennessee’s offense last season mediocre would be an understatement. Tennessee had a difficult time on putting points on the board, averaging just 24.2 PPG.
The Vols were ranked 98th out of 130 FBS teams in total offense. In the Vols last four wins, Jim Chaney’s offense averaged 18 PPG.
Fifth-year senior QB Jarrett Guarantano is expected to be the starter for the Vols come Sept. 5. Guarantano finished the 2019 season with 2,158 passing yards, 16 TDs, and 8 INTs. While Guarantano did improve his stat line from 2018, he still was far too inconsistent.
Guarantano’s 2019 start was mediocre at best, throwing for 736 yards, 7 TDs and 4 INTs in the first four games.
His inconsistency led to a QB change for the Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama games which saw freshman Brian Mauer lead the offense. Mauer showed some promise in his start against Georgia, but his multiple concussions and freshman mistakes led to Guarantano getting his starting job back.
While the senior was able to get the starting job back for the last four games of the season and led Tennessee to an 8-5 record, there is still much room for improvement. The New Jersey native averaged 166 passing yards and 1.2 TDs/game last fall. Guarantano only had a 59 percent completion rate in 2019.
Luckily for Chaney, there is not a lack of talent in the QB position this season. Freshman QB Harrison Bailey from Marietta, Ga. came on campus back in January. Bailey was rated as a four-star and considered to be 3rd best pro-style QB in the 2020 class.
While many believe that Bailey will be the next big time QB on Rocky Top, it is likely that the incoming freshman will redshirt this fall.
Time is running out for Guarantano. He can no longer be just a game manager-style quarterback.
The 2020 season will be an exciting and important one for Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols. But, if Tennessee wants to give Florida and Georgia a run for their money for the division, the quarterback play must be more consistent.