KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano apparently is back atop the depth chart for the start of spring football.
New Vols football coach Jeremy Pruitt has made it clear all positions are open for competition. But Guarantano worked with what appeared to be the first-team offense Tuesday. Will McBride, also a sophomore, had second-teamers around him.
Guarantano has a great opportunity to impress coaches in the next 14 spring sessions, culminating with the Orange and White Game on April 21.
Guarantano recently said on his Twitter account that he added 18 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame in the offseason, which could be a game-changer for the redshirt sophomore from New Jersey.
This spring provides the 218-pound Guarantano with an opportunity to establish himself as a capable option and team leader before Stanford graduate transfer Keller Chryst arrives in June.
Even if Chryst ends up being the Tennessee starting quarterback this fall — as many believe is likely because of his experience in a pro-style offense — Guarantano still could find himself in an optimal position moving forward.
If Guarantano beats out McBride this spring, and impresses enough that incoming freshman JT Shrout is redshirted, he could have two seasons as the starting quarterback with an upgraded offensive line.
Guarantano went 1-5 as the Vols starting quarterback last season. He started and played the first half in the homecoming win over Southern Miss after close losses to South Carolina and Kentucky.
The final two games of the 2017 season — a 30-10 loss to LSU and 42-24 defeat to Vanderbilt — saw the Vols lean more on their run game with interim coach Brady Hoke running the show.
Guarantano was 13-of-23 passing for 239 yards and a touchdown in the loss to LSU, and he was 14-of-22 passing for 183 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception in the loss to the Commodores.
But that was the younger, thinner, dual-threat version of Guarantano.
Tennessee is moving to a pro-style offense behind new offensive coordinator Ty Helton. This offense fits Guarantano long-term better than the previous one.
As athletic and tough as coaches say he is, Guarantano is neither fast enough nor durable enough to make it in the NFL in a dual-threat mode, like Josh Dobbs. But with his great arm strength, accuracy and confidence, Guarantano has the potential to star in a pro-style attack.
The change in coaching staffs will allow him to make the transition without having to change schools or teams.
All that said, McBride showed some ability last season, too. The competition this spring will be real. What McBride lacks in stature, he makes up for with his grit and savvy.
Pruitt said he wants to learn which players are ready to compete, and it’s safe to say the quarterbacks will be under the microscope.
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