KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t saying much about individual players this spring because he didn’t want to mislead anyone.
Especially at quarterback.
Pruitt said Saturday afternoon what most have suspected from the time Stanford graduate transfer Keller Chryst announced he was headed to Knoxville: The QB spot is going to stay wide open.
“We’ll know who our quarterback is probably when we go to Charlotte about halfway through the fourth quarter,” Pruitt said, referencing Tennessee’s opening game on Sept. 1 against West Virginia in Charlotte, N.C. “We’ll have a good idea who our quarterback is at that point.”
Enter the Cardinal
Chryst, a fifth-year senior who was 11-2 as a starting quarterback at Stanford, graduates from the highly esteemed Pac-12 school on June 17. Chryst, however, plans to be at Tennessee on June 1, according to SEC Network reporter Gene Wojciechowski.
Wojciechowski, a former Vols walk-on himself and titan of sports journalism, revealed that Chryst attended position meetings with Tennessee coaches while staying in Knoxville for a week earlier this month.
Further, it was disclosed that Chryst transferred with the blessing of Stanford coach David Shaw, who wanted to see his former QB have an opportunity to showcase his abilities. Chryst had visited Alabama out of high school and wants the opportunity to play in the SEC.
The 6-foot-5, 234-pound Chryst was observed at one Tennessee practice this spring, but Pruitt didn’t reveal the extent of his visit.
Pruitt downplayed Jarrett Guarantano’s MVP performance in the Orange and White Game while indicating Will McBride is still in the hunt.
“When you look at one day’s work out there, that’s not really a true indication of how spring actually went,” Pruitt said, asked about Guarantano’s performance.
“When there’s guys running open on both sides, when you got a good pocket, you got to step up in there and throw the ball and you got to catch the ball,” Pruitt said. “Some of that is throwing to the right people, getting an opportunity to throw it to the right people.”
Guarantano was 15-of-27 passing for 226 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. The redshirt sophomore from New Jersey would have 3 more completions had receivers kept their feet inbounds on two good throws and not dropped what would have been another TD pass.
McBride was just 6-of-18 passing for 71 yards with a touchdown, but Pruitt pointed out the sophomore was hampered by the second-team offense’s lack of a run game.
“I go back to being able to run the football,” Pruitt said. “You rush for 14 yards on one team, you’re going to have a lot of long yardage situations, so everybody knows you’re going to throw it.”
Redshirt for JT Shrout?
JT Shrout is the fourth candidate in the Tennessee quarterback race, hand-picked by million-dollar offensive coordinator Tyson Helton.
Shrout most likely will redshirt while the competition plays out before him, attrition a distinct possibility depending on how Guarantano handles the challenge Chyrst presents this season.
Pruitt has made it clear he’s not promising anything to anyone, and he’s not putting too much stock into one open scrimmage for the sake of putting any of the players or the fan base at ease.
Former Alabama championship quarterback Greg McElroy weighed in with his thoughts, some likely derived from his conversations with Pruitt and the coaching staff, others from his observations Saturday.
“I can tell you this, Jarrett Guarantano, based on the way he’s played isn’t going to make it easy for Jeremy Pruitt when he does decide,” McElroy said.
“Keller Chryst is a big, mature player that, him being on the team will help this team immensely, especially if they are relying on young players and newcomers.”
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