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Tennessee is hoping Jarrett Guarantano will start this weekend, but the Vols may not know until just before the opening kick.

Butch Jones: Jarrett Guarantano ‘game-time decision’ for Tennessee-Missouri game

Tennessee coach Butch Jones said at his news conference Wednesday that quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is probable the Vols’ Saturday night game at Missouri, but indicated on the “Vol Calls” radio show later that night that the redshirt freshman quarterback’s status is a little more uncertain.

“It will be pretty much a game-time decision as to how he feels,” Jones said.

Guarantano injured his ankle in the Vols’ win against Southern Miss last Saturday, forcing Tennessee to burn the redshirt of true freshman Will McBride. Jones said Guarantano practiced on Wednesday, but apparently didn’t see enough to say for sure that he would be ready to go.

The Vols practice on Thursday, Jones said, but that practice will focus mostly on mental repetition for Missouri. They will also have a practice of about 35-40 minutes on Friday before they leave for Missouri. That’s not much time for Guarantano to establish whether he’s ready, but Jones said the coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on him.

“Just the ability to function and run the offense, and when the pocket collapses, the ability to make plays with his legs,” Jones said. “… Friday we’ll really know exactly where he’s at. And in a night game, he’ll be able to have treatments at the hotel as well. He’s gotta be able to be able to move the pocket and change the launch points and all that. … It’s all about the health of our players. We’ll make a game-time decision.”

Guarantano has thrown for 575 yards and a touchdown and added another score on the ground this season. He made his first career start on Oct. 14 against South Carolina. The previous starter, Quinten Dormady, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Jones praised McBride at length, despite the fact that he completed just 1 of 8 passes for 13 yards on Saturday.

“With Will McBride, you see no change,” Jones said. “He has poise. He has confidence. He has the same demeanor each and every day.”