Mike Griffith/SEC Country
Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano gives the Vols offense a different look.

Tennessee mailbag: Where is offense headed under new starting QB Jarrett Guarantano?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones tried to spin that redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and junior quarterback Quinten Dormady had similar abilities, but the differences have become obvious.

Tennessee was more of a spread, finesse-style of team with Dormady starting under center the first five games of the season. The Vols’ intent with Dormady was to exploit defense’s weaknesses.

Dormady has a strong arm and the ability to get through progressions quickly and spread the ball around.

The problem was, Tennessee’s young receiving corps failed on many fronts. There were dropped passes, imprecise routes and an inability to get open and create separation.

Tennessee offensive coordinator Larry Scott will still look to find favorable matchups. But with Guarantano, the Vols will take a different approach to their game plan.

It’s hard to say which approach would or could work better against the Alabama defense Tennessee will face at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Crimson Tide ranks No. 1 in the nation against the run. Vols tailback John Kelly will have his work cut out for him in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Jones has said it’s key to be able to run the ball successfully to “stay on schedule,” a reference to maintaining manageable down-and-distance situations that enable the offense to sustain some degree of unpredictability in the play-calling.

Tennessee football question of the day

I’d like to hear if you think play-calling will be less conservative now that we really don’t have anything to lose …. ?

Jordan Jones 

The change in quarterbacks from Dormady to Guarantano actually means the playbook shrinks a bit. Tennessee will count on Guarantano’s mobility as more of an X-factor, as he can extend plays and scramble for valuable yardage when plays break down.

Scott will still look for matchup advantages, but the key for the Vols is to play physical up front and put the ball in the hands of their playmakers.

A team could have the best playbook in the world and it wouldn’t matter if that team was unable to execute the plays. A good example is the 1998 Tennessee team that was much more limited with first-year starting QB Tee Martin than Peyton Manning’s 1997 squad.

They had to simplify the offense after Manning left, and it turned out fine for Martin and the Vols in their national championship season. Simplifying things this year might give Tennessee a better chance for success moving forward.

Ultimately, offensive success is all about the ability to execute the plays.