It seems odd to call this season a “make or break” season for Jarrett Guarantano.
After all, the Tennessee quarterback is just a sophomore. He’ll still have two full seasons of eligibility remaining after this season. However, Guarantano’s remaining eligibility doesn’t truly tell the tale of how important 2018 is for the once highly rated prospect.
First, Guarantano needs to impress head coach Jeremy Pruitt like any other player needs to. Bad early impressions can be tough to overcome. Guarantano seemed to make a fine impression during spring practice, but leading his team in the boiling hot days of summer, then the toils of preseason camp and into a pressure packed season, will speak volumes about Guarantano’s ability to lead UT’s team.
Pruitt has certainly heard about Guarantano’s odd sideline behavior last season. It’s doubtful that went over well. Pruitt can also watch tape of an inconsistent quarterback that only completed 62-percent of his passes and finished ranked 17th best among SEC passers.
Second, Guarantano will face a wave of competition. If one simply went by recruiting rankings and physical ability, Guarantano would be the heavy favorite to land the starting job this fall and in the foreseeable future. Pruitt’s not thinking like that. That’s why he brought in graduate transfer Keller Chryst who will be eligible this fall after taking part in summer workouts.
Don’t underestimate summer workouts for skill position players. Summer workouts can be every bit as important as spring practice for quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. Chryst won’t enter preseason camp as a first-year player, especially since he also received vast experience with the Cardinal.
Pruitt also signed a quarterback in the 2018 class: J.T. Shrout from Newhall, CA. Shrout was just rated as a three-star prospect. However, that could be because he only played sparingly until his senior season. At some point, Pruitt will have to select his quarterback of the future. Shrout could eventually be that guy.
There’s certainly a scenario in which Chryst could hold onto UT’s starting quarterback position for the entire season if he beats out Guarantano in preseason camp. Then, Shrout – or another quarterback Pruitt might bring in – could be ready to assume that role. That’s why, even though Guarantano is still an underclassmen, this is a make or break season.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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