KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Is Tennessee’s starting quarterback for the 2018 season on campus this weekend?
Stanford graduate transfer quarterback Keller Chryst is a name circled on the board, a prolific pro-style quarterback who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 234 pounds.
New offense, new opportunity
Vols offensive coordinator Ty Helton has made it clear Tennessee is all-in on a pro-style offense this season. Needless to say, Chryst’s reported visit this weekend has been eagerly anticipated.
“You have to be an explosive team, [and] you have to throw that sucker down there and make everyone stand up and take a deep breath,” Helton said. “Whether we catch it or not, you have to throw it down there.”
Tennessee’s offensive scheme and schedule would give Chryst an opportunity to resurrect his hopes to play in the NFL and live up to his recruiting billing.
The Vols return a long, experienced group of receivers. Jauan Jennings, who has proven himself one of the top playmakers in the nation, could be among that group.
Sophomore tailback Ty Chandler is a budding star who proved capable of big plays once in the open field, and Carlin Fils-aime has proven himself as a talent catching the ball out of the backfield.
Tennessee’s offensive line also looks to be much improved with sophomores Trey Smith and Ryan Johnson bringing a tougher attitude into this offseason.
An Under Armour All-American, Chryst was a consensus top 100 recruit, and top-3 pocket passer coming out of Palo Alto High School, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Chryst was 6-0 record as a starter his junior season for the Cardinal but suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in Stanford’s bowl game.
Chryst recovered in time for the start of the 2017 season, but the Cardinal lost confidence in him after he had 2 interceptions and a fumble in a 20-17 loss to unranked San Diego State in the third game of the season.
Stanford started platooning quarterbacks, disrupting the sort of rhythm offenses need for optimum timing.
Tennessee knows all about that after starting three quarterbacks last season in a fruitless effort to replace 2016 SEC passer rating leader Josh Dobbs.
The Vols have made it clear they are still looking for a leader they can count on at quarterback, seeking out a graduate transfer at the position.
East Carolina’s Gardner Minshew (6-2, 216) is another pro-style graduate transfer QB on Tennessee’s list, and he would be eligible to report in time for spring drills.
Chryst would not come to Tennessee until June, arriving around the same time as the Vols’ 2018 signee, pro-style QB JT Shrout.
The Vols will simplify their offense this season as the plays and play calls will be new for all of the players. A later start doesn’t figure to be as detrimental as other seasons.
Phillip Fulmer divulged that new coach Jeremy Pruitt will place a higher priority on fundamentals and execution than variety.
Returning dual-threat QBs
The high-profile search for a graduate transfer and Helton’s clear desire to change the offensive system casts doubt on Jarrett Guarantano’s future at Tennessee.
The Vols recruited Guarantano and sophomore Will McBride as dual-threat quarterbacks to fit Butch Jones’ up-tempo spread offense.
Junior Quinten Dormady won the starting job last season before giving way to Guarantano after a shoulder injury.
Dormady, who seemed like a good fit for the pro-style system, announced he was transferring from Tennessee earlier this semester.
Guarantano was a celebrated recruit, piling up offers and starring in 7-on-7 drills at The Opening before choosing Tennessee over Ohio State and Rutgers.
Guarantano has had the misfortune of playing for two different offensive coordinators in two years. The New Jersey product’s strong work ethic might enable him to make the transition to a new offense if given a fair chance.
If not, Guarantano’s strong arm and great athleticism would quickly be welcomed at another high-profile football school.
McBride showed a quick release and an ability to see the field in his limited playing time, and could adapt quickly.
After four seasons at Stanford, I have decided to transfer for my 5th year of eligibility when I graduate in June. Thank you to Stanford University, the Stanford Football program, and especially my teammates for the experiences here. Looking forward to what the future holds!
— Keller Chryst (@KellerChryst) January 21, 2018