There was so much hype surrounding Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano that anything short of him looking like the Texas A&M version of Johnny Manziel was going to be a disappointment. So, when Guarantano finally was named the starter midway through the 2017 season, and struggled, Vols fans were left wondering if their expectations were simply too high for the former 4-star recruit from New Jersey.
Considering that the entire Tennessee offense was a mess last season, you probably can’t tell much from his performance as a redshirt freshman in 2017. Guarantano started six games (while playing in nine), completing 62 percent of his passes, and averaging 7.2 yards per attempt. He threw for a total of 997 yards.
The key stat that sticks out to me is the sacks.
Guarantano dropped back to pass 139 times and was sacked 26 times. On nearly one out of every five pass plays, he was brought down by the opposing defense.
Part of that issue was his inexperience. Guarantano has to learn how to get rid of the football. Most drives stall when a sack occurs.
Part of the issue was the offensive line; a group ravaged by injury and forced to start players simply not ready for the SEC stage in 2017.
I’d also look at it as a sign of Guarantano’s toughness. Those 26 sacks don’t even include the number of times he was knocked down on pass pays, or tackled on his 64 rushing attempts. This is a tough kid, and his teammates have taken notice.
Guarantano is competing with Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst for the starting job and we might not know until shortly before the season opener against West Virginia (in Charlotte) on September 1st if he wins the gig.
(Mark Nagi is the author of “Decade of Dysfunction: The Road to Tennessee’s Crazy Coaching Search,” which takes an in-depth look at the ten years of frustration that led to a revolt by Vols fans after UT attempted to hire Greg Schiano as its head coach in 2017.)
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