Tennessee’s move to Jarrett Guarantano at QB signifies … well, something, I guess

Tennessee QB Jarrett Guarantano
Randy Sartin/USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to make fun of some of the buzzwords that come out of Tennessee’s football program. It’s just sad, though, to see how the program actually is being handled.

The sadness came to the fore again as the Vols launched the second phase of their lackluster season: “The Great Quarterback Competition of 2017.”

Harp on “leadership reps” all you want; I’d understand. After all, Butch Jones managed to top himself once again Monday when it comes to corny clichés. Understandably, the media again made fun of Tennessee’s coach; he’s been an incredibly easy target over the years.

But fans should be more concerned about what Jones didn’t say. When asked about the quarterback situation, Jones declined to outright say Quinten Dormady would be the starter against South Carolina. In hopes of staving off a controversy, Tennessee released a depth chart Tuesday morning with Dormady listed as the starter. But reports surfaced a few hours later that Dormady was considering leaving the program because redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano actually will start.

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The news was less about a quarterback change than it was about Jones, a desperate coach grasping for straws.

Admittedly, Dormady hasn’t played great. He has a 56 percent completion percentage, six interceptions and two fumbles. But did he ever really get a chance? And Guarantano is 12-of-24 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. Not exactly like replacing Don Majkowski with Brett Favre.

Just last week, Jones said Dormady usually received 60 percent of the first-team repetitions while Guarantano received the rest. That means Jones never was sure Dormady could lead the Vols for the entire season.

Think about Jones’ decision for a moment with his quarterbacks. Dormady is a first-year starter. He needs all the first-team reps he can get, not just “leadership reps.” Think Peyton Manning would have settled for barely more than half of the first-team repetitions when he was a full-time, first-year starter in 1995? That seems far-fetched.

I said during preseason camp that if one of UT’s quarterbacks, most likely Dormady, didn’t secure the starting position handily that the Vols would have a serious crisis on their hands. That appears to be the case.

RELATED: As Tennessee QB struggles continue, former Vol Riley Ferguson thrives at Memphis

Tennessee senior wide receiver Josh Smith was asked about Dormady during the Vols’ media session Tuesday.

“How do you want a kid to perform when you’ve got people booing on him? … That’s hard. I take that personal,” Smith said.

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