For the past three and a half months, Jeremy Pruitt has been trying to figure out the hand he’s been dealt at Tennessee. This past weekend he saw his players perform in a (somewhat) competitive setting at the Orange & White Game at Neyland Stadium.
Truth be told, you can’t tell too much from the Vols final spring practice session, but there are indications of the future we can glean from the contest.
Here are my five takeaways from the Orange & White Game:
1) Jarrett Guarantano Wasn’t Too Bad
Last season the entire Tennessee offense was a mess, and that included the quarterbacks. Neither Quinten Dormady (who is transferring to Houston) nor Jarrett Guarantano nor Will McBride could move the Vols with any consistency.
On Saturday, Guarantano ran the first-team offense, and was 15-of-27 for 226 yards with two touchdowns. Perhaps the most important stat was turnovers. Guarantano didn’t cough up the football once. He was named the spring game MVP and will have the lead for the starting job heading into fall camp.
Guarantano will have to hold off grad transfer Keller Chryst, who arrives from Stanford this June.
I’d be stunned if McBride isn’t the third-stringer.
2) Get Marquez Callaway the ball
The Vols most talented receiver might be Jauan Jennings, but Marquez Callaway should be the number one option for Guarantano/Chryst/McBride in the passing game. You simply can’t rely on the volatile Jennings, and there is no guarantee that Pruitt is going to keep him around come August.
Callaway has NFL potential, and showed it on Saturday when he opened the scoring on a spectacular touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone. He had three catches on the day. Last season, Callaway collected 24 receptions as a sophomore and should better that mark in 2018.
3) Running Men
Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton would prefer that the run game revolve around big backs. He has options arriving on campus this summer, including 6’2”, 215-pound Jeremy Banks from Cordova. Sophomore Timmy Jordan has good size too, and picked up 57 yards rushing in the Orange & White Game, along with a touchdown.
But don’t discount what Ty Chandler could contribute. Chandler had 53 yards on Saturday and is the fastest option in the Tennessee backfield. Pruitt and Helton are smart enough to know that someone as talented as Chandler needs to get a bunch of touches this Fall.
4) M*A*S*H unit no more?
The past two seasons, Tennessee has been one of the most injury-plagued teams in the country. The Vols were playing scout team guys during significant moments in 2016, and that stayed the case in 2017. Redshirts were pulled and the training room was packed.
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