Tennessee QB Jarrett Guarantano talks week of Alabama game
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Tuesday, October 17, 2017
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jarrett Guarantano has brought a much-needed spark to the Tennessee football team’s offense with his confident nature and play-making abilities at quarterback.
The redshirt freshman from New Jersey said he’s excited to have the opportunity to test himself against the best on Saturday, when he leads the Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) against No. 1-ranked Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) at 3:30 p.m. in Tuscaloosa.
“I’m excited to see what type of test and what type of ability I have against Alabama,” Guarantano said. “I know I have great teammates and great players around me, so I’m able to do some of the things I want to and I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s arguably the biggest challenge any Tennessee quarterback has faced in the program’s history, as the 34 points Alabama is favored by is believed to be the biggest point spread in the “Third Saturday of October” rivalry.
The fact that it’s Guarantano’s second career start — and first on the road — makes it all the more daunting of a challenge.
Guarantano a confident QB
The last Vols quarterback to lead Tennessee to a win in Bryant-Denny Stadium was Casey Clausen, back in 2003.
Appropriately, Guarantano exhibits more confidence and self-assurance than any Vols quarterback since Clausen, and he’s backing it up in much the same manner. Clausen was known for standing in the pocket in the face of big hits and making clutch runs on third downs and near the goal line. Similarly, Guarantano wasted no time in showing his grit.
Senior center Jashon Robertson smiled when asked about the open-field lead block the QB threw on Ty Chandler’s 30-yard run in last Saturday’s 15-9 loss to South Carolina.
“I saw that on film, (and) it just shows he’s really competitive and not scared to throw his body around,” Robertson said. “I definitely enjoyed Jarrett’s presence throughout the game. After the game, he was like, ‘So that’s an SEC game,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, man, you took some pretty good hits and popped right back up.’
“I was proud of him and the way he handled his situation on Saturday.”
Eager to improve
Guarantano said he did “pretty well” in his first start, “but not well enough for the win, and that’s all that matters” with his 11-of-18 passing for 133-yard performance.
He returned to the Tennessee football facility Saturday night to watch film of the Vols’ loss, looking deeper into why his last-minute, 73-yard drive stalled out at the 2-yard line.
“Execution — the right play calls were called,” Guarantano said. “And there were times we [players on the field] didn’t make the right calls.”
Guarantano’s final pass whistled through the fingers of receiver Brandon Johnson in the end zone as time expired.
Guarantano, who turned down an offer from Ohio State to sign with the Vols, was critical of himself for not getting the ball out of his hands quick enough on some occasions, or throwing the ball away to protect field position on others.
“I could have done those things, and I think I’ve learned from that,” he said. “I have to do a better job with down and distance and figuring out when to give [running] a chance and when to let it go.”
Guarantano said he’s spoken with Josh Dobbs and Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson in preparation for Tennessee’s nationally televised test at Alabama on Saturday.
“They definitely deserve all the respect they get, [but] we’re not going to just go down there and lay down for them,” Guarantano said. “We’re going to go in there very confident and play ball.”