It looks like we finally have a decision on the fate of the 2020 football season. The SEC has officially decided that the conference will proceed with a 10 game, conference-only schedule. College football will happen in some capacity for the fall of 2020. With that being said, let’s start examining the 2020 Tennessee Volunteers on paper in preparation for the season. For the first time in many years, the Vols return their offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and head coach from the previous year. The consistency of the coaching staff should help player development this offseason. Still, there were still several departures that lead to questions that must be answered. We will take a look at these questions by position group in an ongoing series. Up first, let’s look at the position groups on offense. Here is our preview of the quarterback situation for Tennessee Volunteers headed into 2020.
Tennessee Volunteers Quarterback Breakdown
Key Departing Players
Key Returning Players
- Jarrett Guarantano – Redshirt Senior
- Brian Maurer – Sophomore
- JT Shrout – Redshirt Sophomore
- Kasim Hill – Redshirt Sophomore
Key New Recruits
- Harrison Bailey
- Jimmy Holiday
Key Questions and Stories
It is only fitting that we kick this series off with perhaps the most discussed position group for the 2020 Volunteers. It is no secret that subpar quarterback play has plagued the Vols in the past three seasons. Redshirt Senior quarterback, Jarrett Guarantano, has been perhaps the most polarizing player for the Vols in the last decade. Fans seem to have a love-hate relationship with the veteran signal-caller. His attitude, selflessness, and commitment to the university have won him some fan respect. However, bad decision making and inconsistent play have led others to question if he has the tools to help this offense reach their potential. The former five-star recruit has not lived up to the billing, but he did return for his senior year to right a few wrongs. He obviously believes he will get that chance.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) July 19, 2020
The honest truth is this is a two-man race. While JT Shrout and Brian Maurer showed flashes of talent in 2019, Guarantano solidified himself as the best option from the 2019 roster by season’s end. He further validated that point with a historic 415 yard passing performance at Missouri, becoming only the third quarterback in Tennessee history to reach the 400-yard milestone.
That leaves incoming blue-chip sensation, Harrison Bailey, as the number one contender for Guarantano’s title. Bailey is fresh off his own historic season, leaving quite the impression in the Georgia high school state record books. The state champion threw for 44 touchdowns in his senior season alone, and his career passing yardage ranks fourth all-time in the state of Georgia behind Trevor Lawrence, Deshaun Watson, and Jake Fromm. Many Vol fans regard the freshman as the future of the program, and the missing cog to get the offense out of first gear. While he may represent the future, a shortened offseason could hamper him from being the immediate answer many expect. Still, that doesn’t prevent the Tennessee faithful from raving about his potential.
Tennessee fans love them some Harrison Bailey.
This 4-second clip has been viewed over 77,000 times in 14 hours. pic.twitter.com/MDsN0lslIf
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) March 19, 2020
The Last Word
Whether fans are ready to admit it or not, this is Guarantano’s position to lose. The loss of spring football torpedoed Bailey’s best chance at usurping the starting role from the incumbent. With limited live-action reps before the Vols are expected to take on the Gators in game one, it just doesn’t seem that the talented freshman has the time to learn the intricacies of Jim Chaney‘s offense. Expect Jeremy Pruitt and Chaney to trust their veteran signal-caller with the first start of the season.
That doesn’t mean this is the end of the controversy, however. Pruitt and Co. have shown they are not afraid to play multiple quarterbacks throughout a season. The Vols played three different quarterbacks through the course of their six-game winning streak to close out 2019. All of those quarterbacks are still on the roster. While having an established and entrenched leader under center is the ultimate goal, it’s not a forgone conclusion. Bailey will get every chance to push Guarantano for the chance to start. The best-case scenario for the Vols is this healthy competition brings out the best in this position group.
Disagree with our Last Word on the Tennessee Volunteers Quarterback Preview? Leave a comment below to give your thoughts on the quarterback situation heading into a bizarre 2020 season. Also, make sure to stay tuned next week, as we will break down a possible position of strength for the Vols, the running backs.