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Despite defeat, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano steady in starting role

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Guarantano moves to 1-6 as a starter at Tennessee.
AP Images

CHARLOTTE — In what was a badly kept secret, Jarrett Guarantano was #QB1 for Tennessee on Saturday against West Virginia. The redshirt sophomore showed he has vastly improved from his struggles last season. He got the ball out on time and delivered several nice throws with the medium passing game.

"I thought he kept his poise which is important for a quarterback," Pruitt said. "The one thing about quarterback is it takes ten other guys around you to execute to give you the chance to have success. There was times today that we didn't do that, but he kept his poise."

Guarantano was praised for his toughness last season when he took a beating at Alabama. Saturday in Charlotte, he was hit early as the offensive line worked to find solid footing. Once they started to give him time, Guarantano started to make plays.

"We take a lot of pride in our pass protection," guard Ryan Johnson said. "That's our quarterback back there and that's personal. For us to make sure he doesn't get hit, I think we did a good job in that, but there are always things we can improve on in your pass protection and your general blocking as a whole, but I thought we did well."

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Guarantano delivers a pass in a loss to West Virginia.
AP Images

Guarantano made his seventh career start and was solid going 19- of-25 for 172 yards and a touchdown. The highlight of those yards came in a 4th-and-goal from the one, where Guarantano play faked and found Dominick Wood-Anderson for Tennessee's first touchdown of the season.

"We put a good drive together, 17 plays at one point, got us back in the football game and we did some good things as the game went," Pruitt said. "There a lot of positives, lot of positives, but the most important things is who wins and loses the game. We didn't win today and West Virginia did and they deserved to win."

Pruitt was coy leading up to the game as he failed to acknowledge who would be his starter until moments before kickoff. Ultimately, the decision to play Guarantano came down to his fall camp performance.

"They both deserved to play," Pruitt said. "It's been a really close battle between those two guys and Will McBride has done a really good job too. Jarrett is a little more athletic and in the last week, he's had a little bit better practices not to take away from Keller."

And that leads Pruitt and his signal callers into next week's game against ETSU at home.

"I told Jarrett that I don't care if you are 24-for-24 in this game, next week Keller Chryst is going to play," Pruitt said. "We need to play him to create a back up quarterback and we will let him play some next week."