KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee freshman quarterback Will McBride might not ever get a better chance to showcase his abilities than Saturday night in Columbia, Missouri.
The availability of the Vols’ starting QB, redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, is considered a game-time decision because of the right ankle he injured in last Saturday’s 24-10 win over Southern Miss. Consequently, that makes McBride a game-time decision to make his first collegiate start.
Even if McBride doesn’t start, coach Butch Jones said there’s a chance McBride could play depending on how effectively Guarantano is running the offense.
Tennessee (4-5, 0-4 SEC) needs to run the ball effectively to have a realistic shot at upsetting Missouri (4-5, 1-4) at Faurot Field. But it’s difficult to imagine a gimpy Guarantano sitting back in the pocket and picking apart the Tigers’ secondary.
It’s not so much that Guarantano can’t deliver pinpoint passes at high velocity — he certainly can. But the Vols’ receiving corps is down at least three players and possibly a fourth if sophomore Marquez Callaway can’t bounce back from the ankle injury he suffered against Southern Miss.
McBride played in relief of Guarantano last Saturday, and here are three things that stood out about McBride’s performance:
• Quick release
• Mentally prepared for his opportunity
• Ran the ball with passion
A year ago at this time, McBride was a Memphis commitment. But then Tennessee came calling, and he flipped to the Vols on Dec. 13, 2016. He enrolled less than a month later.
Jones said Tennessee coaches knew they wanted an early signee to provide depth at quarterback. Chances are, the staff knew then that former Vols QB Sheriron Jones wouldn’t stick around (he didn’t, transferring after spring drills).
McBride has done his part by working hard and staying ready for his chance.
The Vols’ remaining games against LSU and Vanderbilt won’t necessarily mandate a quarterback with mobility. But Saturday night’s game at Missouri will, and with Tennessee’s 2018 class featuring two elite-level quarterbacks, this could be McBride’s best opportunity to make a statement.
Tennessee Football The Good
• The Vols have yet another mobile QB capable of executing the read-option in Seth Washington, a true freshman from Dallas who turned down scholarship offers elsewhere to walk on at Tennessee.
• Tennessee freshman offensive guard Ryan Johnson brought a level of intensity in his first start that bodes well for now and the future.
• Freshman cornerback Shawn Shamburger is back in the mix to play after missing the Southern Miss game with an unspecified lower body injury.
Tennessee Football The Bad
• The Vols catch Missouri at the wrong time, with the Tigers riding a three-game win streak during which they have scored 165 points.
• UT didn’t show any sign of knowing how to best utilize freshman running back Ty Chandler best with John Kelly back as the primary ball-carrier.
Tennessee Football The Unknowns
• Offensive tackles Brett Kendrick and Drew Richmond were both still listed as questionable by Jones on Wednesday, along with Callaway.
Series history: Tennessee is 2-3 all-time against Missouri
|2016||Vols 63, Missouri 37||Knoxville|
|2015||Vols 19, Missouri 8||Columbia|
|2014||No. 19 Missouri 29, Vols 21||Knoxville|
|2013||No. 10 Missouri 31, Vols 3||Columbia|
|2012||Missouri 51, Vols 48||Knoxville|