KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s quarterback situation looks to make plenty of headlines this spring and the rest of the offseason before things get settled.
New Tennessee offensive coordinator Ty Helton sang the praises of incoming freshman JT Shrout on Wednesday night, but he also indicated the Vols might end up having more than one quarterback start next season.
“I think we have different types of guys. I think we have guys that are good runners, I think we have guys that are good passers, and we have guys that are smart people,” Helton said at the Tennessee Theatre. “And with that group, as a whole unit, we’ll find guys we can win with.”
The Vols ranked 109th in the nation in passing efficiency last season, with only Mississippi State (111th) and Florida (112th) faring worse in the SEC.
Helton, who co-coordinated a USC offense that ranked 27th in pass efficiency last season, described the Vols’ pending offensive philosophy. His vision is in line with the Vols’ projected move from the spread to a pro-style offense.
Shrout, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound newcomer from Newhall, Calif., won’t report to Knoxville for school until June. Still, Shrout made it clear during an appearance on WNML radio in December that he’s confident he can win the starting job.
“I believe I’m as good as any guy in the country,” said Shrout, who passed for 3,064 yards at Hart High School last season with 27 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
“I’m a pass-first guy,” Shrout said. “I’m gonna try to kill you with my arm. But in today’s game you have to be able to make a play or two with your feet and buy time to make plays down field.”
Helton told Tennessee fans what he’s looking for in a quarterback on Wednesday night, and he said Shrout fits the bill.
“At some point and time you have to make a great throw, make a big-time play to win the game,” Helton said. “You have to be a thrower first, you have to be a field general, you have to get us out of trouble.
“You have to be a guy who is savvy that can move around in the pocket and make plays — do all those things and create plays [and] that’s what this young man does.”
Helton said Shrout has great upside.
“He started this past year and threw for over 3,000 yards, had a good season, and he’s still developing,” Helton said. “That’s what I look for. You have to be a guy who has upside to him, a guy that we can develop. He’s a guy I can see that will come in and compete and see if he can win a job. This guy is hungry, and we’re excited about him getting here and the opportunities he can provide us.”
Senior Quinten Dormady transferred from Tennessee last month, and returning scholarship quarterbacks Jarrett Guarantano and Will McBride were recruited to play in the spread system.
Guarantano has an arm strong enough to get the ball deep and fit passes into tight windows, while McBride has shown a savvy pocket presence and quick release.
Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt also has left the door open for Tennessee to take a graduate-transfer quarterback in the 2018 class.