KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football has an ongoing quarterback competition, and that’s a good thing.
Cool-handed junior Quinten Dormady, the unquestioned starter and team leader, can handle the push that redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano will continue to make as the season progresses.
Pressure comes with the job when you’re the Vols’ quarterback, and Dormady is likely to get a full dose of that when No. 23 Tennessee plays No. 24 Florida at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Coach Butch Jones indicated on Monday that Tennessee will continue to play two quarterbacks, but the circumstances of each game will dictate to what extent.
“I thought Quinten continued to improve, I thought his footwork was better, I thought his accuracy, for the most part, had improved and I liked his game management,” Jones said. “There were some checks at the line of scrimmage, but we have to take care of the football, and the quarterback is the caretaker of the football.”
Dormady, who was 13-of-18 passing for 194 yards and 2 TDs, also threw an interception in the end zone.
Guarantano showed great athleticism and arm strength in his debut, and had three of his passes not been dropped, his numbers would have been much better than 4 of 12 for 41 yards with 1 touchdown.
“It was great to get Jarrett in the game; those repetitions were invaluable,” Jones said. “I thought he did some very good things, but, again, it’s the command presence in terms of getting us into the right plays, the RPOs (run-pass options), where his eyes are, all the fundamental things that I think usually occur in a first game, and that was his first live game action.
“When I look back, I was very pleased with both individuals. I think they gained some confidence and we’ll continue to compete and we’ll see what happens through the course of this week of preparation.”
It’s Dormady’s team for now, a right he has earned by biding his time behind former starter Josh Dobbs in positive fashion and then having a perfect spring game (10 for 10, 120 yards, 2 TDs).
Dormady also earned trust by showing poise and leadership in leading the Vols back from 14 points down in a 42-41 double-overtime win against Georgia Tech.
Guarantano hasn’t had his chance to win a game in that fashion — yet.
“There’s no substitute for live game repetitions and [Guarantano] did some very good things, I thought,” Jones said. “A couple times on ball locations, he did a really good job of staying in the pocket and being able to deliver the ball.
“But all the nuances of managing the line of scrimmage and getting in the right play, that comes with repetitions; that’s the only way you can simulate it.”
“The more game repetitions he gets, the better he’s going to become,” he said. “There’s a lot of things he can correct, and I think if you spoke to Jarrett, he’d be the first to tell you that, but you can’t beat live game repetitions.”