Vols have added depth at quarterback,competition on the horizon
Jeremy Pruitt has been around good quarterback play during his tenures at Florida State, Georgia and Alabama.
At Tennessee, he inherits a quarterback room that has many more questions than answers.
"I know one thing and that's you can't win in this league without a quarterback," Pruitt said. "I'm being as brutally honest as I can, but I'm not sure what we have at any position."
Tennessee will have two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this spring with Jarrett Guarantano and Will McBride having both started games last season. They will add true freshman J.T. Shrout and Stanford grad-transfer Keller Chryst this summer. Opportunity is staring each in the face, but Pruitt knows finding the right guy is paramount.
"We have to make sure we do have a quarterback. I told Keller Chryst that the only thing I know about J.G. is he has arm talent, he can run and he's tough as nails because we beat him up pretty good last year.
"Will McBride I'm not as familiar with because we didn't play against him. When you look at it from that standpoint, you don't really know what you have either way."
There were a handful of graduate transfers available, but Chryst wanted the opportunity to compete. Nothing given and everything earned is something this new staff is sticking by.
"There were probably other guys that wanted to come here, but I wouldn't tell them they were going to be the starting quarterback," Pruitt said. "That will be determined by the guys on the field. Keller was excited just about the chance to compete. That's all he wanted."
And the more that Pruitt spoke with Chryst, the more he realized that he was a good fit for the room that can help lead the team.
"He has experience," Pruitt said. "He comes from a football family and has good maturity. He was 11-2 as a starter."
Chryst started 13 games over the last two seasons and completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 1,926 yards and 19 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
On the opposite end is Guarantano and McBride. Guarantano completed 86 of 139 passes for 997 yards with four touchdowns to two interceptions. McBride had one start at Missouri and played sparingly with Guarantano injured. He was 17 of 40 for 152 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Guarantano enters spring as the favorite to earn the starting job and having spring is a real leg up over Chryst. Being a leader is something that Guarantano strives to be and Pruitt has noticed.
"I've seen him work hard this off-season and try to do things the right way. The one thing I remember about him is he wants to be the best player he can possibly be. He's coachable and I see him in there watching tape a lot."
All of that aside, Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton are looking for the right guy to lead what will be a new look Tennessee offense. That doesn't always mean the best player, but yet someone who checks all the boxes.
"I think the big thing about quarterback is when the position is over, make sure you are kicking the football," Pruitt said.
"Whether it's for an extra point or for a punt. I don't think it matters for athletic ability or arm strength. I think it matters about how you can get the other ten guys on the team to play at the highest level and play together. I think that's the most important thing for a quarterback."