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VOL. 43 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 30, 2019

No questions asked: Guarantano owns QB position

By Rhiannon Potkey

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Jarrett Guarantano has worked hard to become the undisputed starting quarterback for the Vols.  

-- Tennessee Athletics/Utsports.Com

One player on Tennessee’s roster was the clear-cut starter at his position months before the season started. The coaches didn’t even need to pretend otherwise to create competition.

Jarrett Guarantano is Tennessee’s quarterback.

The redshirt junior earned the spot through hard work, diligence and preparation.

Although appreciative of the status, Guarantano is not content just being the QB1. He wants to achieve much more, and doesn’t need any external sources for motivation.

His greatest challenger stares back at him from the mirror each day. His daily fire comes from trying to reach his potential.

“I don’t want to look left and right. I don’t want to look at any newspapers or articles seeing where I’m ranked. I don’t want to see that stuff,” Guarantano says. “I just want to be the best player in the world, and I want to be the best player in the country and that’s my everyday goal.”

The 6-foot-4, 213-pound Guarantano has made 18 career starts, throwing for 2,904 yards and 16 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

His career completion percentage of 62.2 percent ranks second in UT history behind only to Peyton Manning (62.5).

Last season, Guarantano started all 12 games, passing for 1,907 yards and 12 touchdowns with three interceptions. He broke the school record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception with 166 straight.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Guarantano’s game was the toughness he displayed. Playing behind a shaky offensive line, Guarantano took plenty of hard hits and got right back up. He never backed down or blamed teammates.

“He’s a great quarterback and a great leader,” Tennessee redshirt senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings says. “He’s going to come out here and work his tail off each and every day. He believes in us like we believe in him and we’re going to take this one day at a time.”

Guarantano arrived at Tennessee as a hyped four-star recruit out of New Jersey. He redshirted his freshman season in 2016, watching and learning behind respected veteran Joshua Dobbs.

Guarantano appreciated the wisdom Dobbs provided, and he is trying to pay it forward to the freshmen quarterbacks on Tennessee’s roster.

“Whenever I had a question, (Dobbs) was always there with an answer. I want to be that same exact example. I’m an older guy now, so it is kind of weird for me to say it,” says Guarantano, who graduated this summer with a degree in psychology.

“Every day after practice I’m in there and those guys come in and want to learn something new and want to know what I’m thinking and or just how I feel about a certain play. It’s good to have those guys always asking and always curious trying to get better.”

Throughout his career at UT, Guarantano has cycled through offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches. He’s gaining comfort this season working with new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke, a former Heisman Trophy winner.

“Going into the summer, coach Weinke has harped on me to look at myself in the mirror and compete against myself every day. If I want to get what I’ve always wanted and I’ve always prayed for and looked for growing up, I got to do that every day and I have to come with my ‘A’ game,” Guarantano adds.

“I can’t look left and right and be saying, ‘look who I have behind me’ or ‘look who’s here.’ I have to be the best player I can be every day.”

Chaney and Guarantano have bonded over hours and hours of watching film together and discussing Guarantano’s role in Chaney’s offense. Chaney plans to give Guarantano as much freedom as he can handle.

“I think any good offense allows your quarterbacks to change plays when they need to. As a play caller, you can sit there and be right about 60 percent of the time. Somebody’s got to get you right that other 40 percent or you’re living in a bad situation,” Chaney explains. “The expectation for him is to get me out of my horrible calls to some good calls, which I think he can do, and I trust all of our quarterbacks to be able to do that.

‘But he should be able to do it at a higher rate because he’s played more football.”

Guarantano has earned more widespread praise this preseason from different media outlets.

After initially having reservations, SEC Network analyst Chris Doering has been impressed with Guarantano’s maturation since his redshirt freshman season.

“I was actually kind of down on him two years ago in the Georgia Tech game on the sidelines when he didn’t play. He had negative body language and was pouting,” Doering recalls. “But he has really shown how much he competes despite getting hit time and time again. I have a lot of respect, and I think he has the respect of his team as well, because of that toughness and competitive nature.”

Upon their arrival at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, in July, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said he brought Guarantano because “he’s our quarterback.”

Guarantano doesn’t have to look over his shoulder or question his status entering his second full season as the starter.

He’s comfortable being the leader of the offense, and confident he can lead Tennessee back to respectability.

Guarantano felt the need to apologize to fans publicly for two straight losing seasons without bowl games. He knows that’s not the standard expected for the Vols.

A big reason Guarantano signed with UT was the program’s tradition of success. He knows the quarterback is the face of the Vols, and he embraces that responsibility.

Some of Guarantano’s potential success will depend on the pieces around him, but he is not willing to settle for being average. He’s tired of finishing at the bottom of the SEC standings.

“The biggest jump I’m trying to take is definitely winning more football games,” he says. “I definitely want to be in charge of the football games, whether we win or lose, and just be able to get the full potential out of this team. That’s really my main thing.”

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