Vol fans have developed a peculiar habit — watch Quinten Dormady struggle, boo him into submission, chant “JG! JG! JG!,” and erupt in applause upon the arrival of Jarrett Guarantano, only to watch him perform just as poorly as Dormady, if not worse.
Yet, Guarantano is rarely (if ever) on the receiving end of the fan’s dismay.
Throughout the offseason, head coach Butch Jones danced around the quarterback question, and to a certain degree, he still is. Because of Dormady’s inconsistent play, Jones has been forced to consider all options, which has in turn created a discombobulated offense that still lacks an identity, any rhythm, and a plan.
Heading into the bye week — in which the Vols are fresh off two of their worst performances in the Butch Jones era — the quarterback question is no closer to being answered than it was in early January, and unfortunately for the Orange and White, there is no clear answer in sight.
Dormady and Guarantano are both incredibly flawed prospects. What makes the situation even more dire is that Tennessee clearly lacks to the coaching to quickly patch up the holes.
In Dormady’s case, he remains a deer in headlights after five starts, constantly throwing off of his back foot under pressure and consistently making the wrong reads in both the passing game and when he’s called to run the read option.
The root of Dormady’s issues stem from a lack of playing time in both 2015 and 2016. As our own Austin Stanley pointed out, there were several instances when the junior out of Texas was unable to gain valuable reps because the Vols failed to blow out inferior opponents. Heading into the season, Dormady had thrown only 39 career passes, the same amount he threw against Florida during his third career start, which also happened to be his debut on the road in conference play.
So although Dormady is technically a junior, he has the experience and on-field knowledge of a freshman.
For Guarantano, the fact that he’s a redshirt freshman makes it no surprise that he’s unpolished, especially when he’s injected sporadically into games in odd situations.
It’s obvious Guarantano is no Jameis Winston or Johnny Manziel, who both won Heisman Trophies as true freshmen at Florida State and Texas A&M, respectively. He’s still going through the motions and establishing what exactly he can provide for a sputtering Tennessee offense.
Moving forward, Butch Jones and quarterback coach Mike Canales — who has one of the worst quarterback-coaching track records imaginable — must discover a way to make life easier for whomever the starter is.
For Dormady, it’s taking the ball out of his hands as often as possible, while also emphasizing that opting to keep the ball on the read option is an acceptable practice. For Guarantano, it’s being as transparent as possible — either he’s the sure-fire backup, or he has a legitimate chance at becoming the starter.
Knowing Jones’ checkered past of transparency, the quarterback question will likely remain for the entirety of the 2017 season. However, if the Vols plan on saving their season from completely crumbling, they must use the bye week to answer the most important question in football.