Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano will make his first career start in place of Quinten Dormady this week as the Volunteers seek to bounce back from their first shutout loss since 1994.
Vols coach Butch Jones said Wednesday that Guarantano would get the starting nod Saturday when Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC) hosts South Carolina (4-2, 2-2).
“He’s worked very, very hard,” Jones said. “Quinten did some very, very good things as well, and like I’ve continued to say all year long, a lot of times the quarterback is a byproduct of execution of everyone around them, but Jarrett’s worked very hard and he'll have that opportunity on Saturday.”
Guarantano has gone 12 of 24 for 54 yards passing with one touchdown and no interceptions while backing up Dormady this season. He also is more mobile than Dormady, though Guarantano has rushed for only 6 net yards on 10 carries thus far.
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Dormady has thrown six interceptions and lost two fumbles in Tennessee’s last four games. Tennessee is coming off a bye week after losing 41-0 to No. 4 Georgia on Sept. 30.
“We just felt Jarrett has earned the opportunity,” Jones said. “We need to score points in this conference. It’s going to take points to win, and like I said, it’s no reflection on Quinten, it’s a lot of individuals around him. Quinten’s done some good things, but you’re always looking for what you feel gives you the best opportunity to win the football game.”
Guarantano had lost a preseason competition with Dormady for the starting spot. During the national telecast of Tennessee’s season-opening 42-41 double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech , cameras showed Guarantano sitting on the sidelines without interacting much with teammates.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Larry Scott said this week that Guarantano had learned from that experience.
“We’re not going to hide from that,” Scott said. “We know what happened. It was all over the national TV and everywhere like that. For that kid, what he needed in the process of being a quarterback was to have something like that actually occur where he can actually step out and see himself in those situations and see that if I’m going to be the face of the program, the face of the team, the quarterback, you can’t look like that ever. For him to have that experience the way it happened is as real as it gets.”
Scott added that Guarantano has come a long way since.
“He’s done a really good job of just mentally understanding how to focus, how to be a great teammate, how to learn how to take the steps to be a quarterback,” Scott said.
Dormady started each of Tennessee’s first five games this season after backing up Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Joshua Dobbs the last two years. He has completed 55.5 percent of his passes for 925 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions this season.
Tennessee has scored a total of three points over its last six quarters.
“Quinten’s a competitor,” Jones said Wednesday. “Obviously he was very, very disappointed, but that’s what you would expect from a competitor. I thought he had one of his better practices yesterday, and he came out and worked. You’re always one snap away. We go through life, we have setbacks and it’s how you deal with it. I think he’s dealt with it very well.”