KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jeremy Pruitt has seen Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano through the eyes of a competitor, and he came away impressed.
Nothing has changed in that regard since Pruitt took over as the Vols coach on Dec. 7.
“JG, that kid is tough, he has arm talent, he has good athletic ability,” Pruitt said Thursday. “I don’t know much about [his swagger], but I have seen him work hard this offseason and try to do things the right way.
“He’s tough as nails.”
Some have assumed that Guarantano — one of two returning sophomore scholarship quarterbacks along with Will McBride — would be a candidate to transfer from Tennessee. Pruitt said he didn’t get that drift when he met with Guarantano.
“The one thing I remember about him is he wants to be the best player he can possibly be,” Pruitt said. “He wants to be coachable. I see him in there watching tape a lot.”
The Vols recently added Stanford graduate-transfer quarterback Keller Chryst, and Tennessee offensive coordinator Ty Helton has said the team is moving to a pro-style offense.
Top dual threat
Guarantano was the nation’s top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 signing class, choosing the Vols over Ohio State and Rutgers.
Guarantano redshirted behind Josh Dobbs in 2017, and last season he competed with Quinten Dormady and McBride, ultimately leading the team in starts.
Tennessee’s offensive line was in shambles, however, and the leading receiver was out for the season. Guarantano didn’t have much to work with, and as a result he took several big hits.
Pruitt was Alabama’s defensive coordinator last season when the Tide put a 45-7 beating on Tennessee. The Vols’ only touchdown came on a 97-yard interception return by linebacker Daniel Bituli.
Guarantano was 9-of-16 passing for 44 yards with an interception. He was sacked 4 times, finishing with minus-12 yards rushing on 11 attempts.