The Tennessee Vols will only go as far as redshirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano takes them this season.
If Guarantano struggles, it won’t be pretty for Tennessee — especially with two unproven players in JT Shrout and Brian Maurer behind him on the depth chart.
But if Guarantano thrives, it could be the beginning of something special for the Vols.
It would also completely shift the narrative that has surrounded Guarantano during his first few seasons on Rocky Top.
For now, Guarantano is viewed by most fans/analysts as an extremely tough competitor that’s been held back by the play of his offensive line during a turbulent time in Knoxville.
Essentially, Guarantano is a “bridge quarterback”. He’s not a player that was recruited by Jeremy Pruitt and the current staff, unlike the other quarterbacks currently on the roster. Guarantano is the the bridge between the Butch Jones era and the Jeremy Pruitt era.
But in 2019, Guarantano has a chance to change that narrative.
And he’s already started.
For one, Guarantano and Pruitt have worked on their relationship.
Because Pruitt didn’t recruit Guarantano, there wasn’t an existing relationship between the two prior to last year. And there really wasn’t much time to build a relationship, with Pruitt trying to build a new culture at Tennessee.
But that all changed after last season. Pruitt and Guarantano now have a “great relationship” and Guarantano says there’s a certain trust between the two that didn’t exist before.
#Vols QB Jarrett Guarantano on Jeremy Pruitt: He was changing the culture here last year, and we understood that, so we really didn’t focus on building relationships. We started doing that after the season, though, and he and I have a great relationship. We trust each other.
— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) July 16, 2019
Guarantano is Pruitt’s guy now, despite the fact that he didn’t recruit the former four-star quarterback. And Pruitt has expressed confidence in Guarantano’s ability to lead Tennessee’s offense.
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt on why he brought Jarrett Guarantano to SEC Media Days.
“He’s our quarterback. I believe in Jarrett. He’s become a tremendous leader the last six months.”
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) July 16, 2019
I don’t think Pruitt calling Guarantano a “tremendous leader” is coach speak, either.
Guarantano appears to be much more comfortable this fall. His confidence is noticeable. And he talks about his teammates like a true leader.
This was all extremely evident in Guarantano’s media session on Tuesday with reporters.
Guarantano is relaxed and at ease as he enters the 2019 season. But he’s also hungry for success.
That’s a great combination.
I think we’ll see Guarantano take a huge step forward this season — especially with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney calling plays.
Soon, we won’t think of Guarantano anymore as the bridge between Jones and Pruitt. But we’ll think of him as the quarterback who started a new era of winning at Tennessee.
Wouldn’t that be a great way to be remembered?
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports