Photo courtesy Tennessee athletics.
Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano will be making his third start at Kentucky on Saturday night.

Tennessee mailbag: Why don’t the Vols throw more deep passes?

Here’s your chance to weigh in on Tennessee football, via our mailbag column featuring the best questions supplied to SEC Country beat writer Mike Griffith from the Tennessee Volunteers Insiders page on Facebook or Mike’s Twitter account @MikeGriffith32.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Mobility and confidence are two things Jarrett Guarantano has brought to the Tennessee offense.

Fans are ready for the redshirt freshman quarterback to bring touchdowns and victories to the Vols as well.

Guarantano has essentially promised as much, telling Tennessee fans they can look forward to a “magical” finish to the end of the regular season. That starts with Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Kentucky (TV: ESPN).

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“I think we’re just in a good position and we’re ready to explode these next few weeks and play well,” Guarantano said on Tuesday in the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio. “There’s no missing ingredients. I think we’re finally going to go out there and make plays like we should have been.”

According to ThePowerRank.com, Tennessee ranks 122nd in the country in yards per pass attempt (4.92) and is 89th in the nation yards per rush attempt (4.62).

The Vols are also tied for 126th in the nation with 19 plays of 20 yards or more this season — last among Power 5 schools.

This leads us to ….

Question of the Day

Why do we not stretch the field with the passing game? Tried it one time against Bama. Why is the offense so predictable? Can Butch actually coach a game where he looks like he believes in his players?

Paul Robinson

Guarantano was asked about throwing the deep ball on Tuesday.

“I’m definitely not scared to throw it down the field,” Guarantano said, “but I do think that being able to control the turnover battle is a big part of the game.”

Guarantano went on to say that most teams are playing over the top, preventing receivers from getting behind them.

There’s a lot of chances for shorter routes, digs, comebacks and those type of things, and curls,” he said. “If they are going to play 10 yards off (the receiver) why go deep? So it just depends on personnel and who we are going against.”

It also depends on pass protection and down and distance.

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“(Guarantano) hit his back foot (on the drop back) a few times and there wasn’t time to wait for things to develop down field to push the ball,” Offensive coordinator Larry Scott said Monday. “You want to create big plays in your offense …. when we call those plays, you’ve got to make good on them, though.

“You call those (deep pass) plays on first-and-10 and don’t make it, now you’re second-and-10 against a really good defense, and that doesn’t edge out for you as you move forward,” Scott said. “So when you call those plays, you have to make good on them.”

It’s worth noting that the Vols have played the No. 1 (Alabama) and No. 3 (Georgia) defenses in the nation in two of the past three games.

Belief in players

As for Jones “believing in his players,” in the case of Guarantano it’s a matter of knowing what your quarterback can execute at this point of his career and playing to his strengths.

“One of the things with a young quarterback is you don’t want to put too much on his plate early,” Jones said, echoing a popular sentiment among virtually all coaches.

For those wondering why Tennessee is going with the younger quarterback over junior Quinten Dormady, the answer is that Guarantano’s ability to run the ball stresses a defense.

When a quarterback can run, suddenly, there’s one more player in the offensive backfield that defenses have to account for.

If the Vols’ receivers had shown they could beat one-on-one coverage, execute routes with precision and catch the ball consistently, Jones would have been more likely to stick with the more experienced passer in Dormady.