By Alex Norman
You can be excused if you feel like Jarrett Guarantano has been on campus for a decade. In fact, this will only be the fourth season for the redshirt junior quarterback.
But Guarantano has not had an easy go of it. He’s played in two seasons, while sitting out 2016 as a redshirt. In 2017 and 2018 he took a savage battering from opposing defenses. Partly because of the inefficiency of his offensive line… and partly because he holds onto the football too long.
And partly because there has been no consistency within the Tennessee football program. This will be Guarantano’s fourth season at UT… with his fourth offensive coordinator.
The good news is that Guarantano gets Jim Chaney to fill that role, the highly respected offensive coordinator from Georgia. For Chaney, it is a return to Knoxville after serving as OC under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley between 2009-2012.
So far during spring practice, Chaney likes what he has seen from Guarantano, while understanding he hasn’t had an ideal time in the Tennessee quarterback room.
“I think that Jarrett is doing a great job of learning his role in a new system,” said Chaney. “He has been through a few of us (offensive coordinators). What is interesting when you look at guys like him in the college game, what am I the fourth coordinator he has had? How hard it is for them not to get calloused and cynical about the game of football and still be fresh with it and eager to learn. It is tough sometimes. It is not always a bed of roses out there for the quarterbacks. It is kind of, what we had here before with (former Tennessee quarterback) Jonathan Crompton, there are some similarities there. They are both good football players and I think Jarrett is going to have a good season and he is fun to be around.”
While Tennessee has struggled mightily on offense in the post-Josh Dobbs era, Chaney believes that the passing game can be a positive this Fall.
“I think when you look at the strengths of the team right now; I would argue the experience at the wide receiver corps,” said Chaney. “Those kids are making plays and understand things. I will add a new concept and they have seen it before. We are not re-inventing the wheel here. I think that Jauan (Jennings), Marquez Callaway, Brandon Johnson and Josh Palmer are all playing good ball. (Jordan) Murphy has been making some good plays at slot. We are moving bodies around the offensive line to find some happiness there. (Jerome) Carvin is doing a better job and doing some good stuff. I would argue that the seniors at the wide receiver are something to hang your hat on.”
A concern remains the offensive line. There is talent in that group, but remains a work in progress.
“I’ll tell you what you find when you watch big offensive linemen,” said Chaney. “You see their fleas and then you go to work on their fleas… Sometimes you are not initially sure always whether it’s lower body strength, it’s lateral movements, it’s hand placement, it’s overall strength or it’s knowledge of the offense. We will be able to define that for our kids and let them go to work on it and they will. Our kids have proven they will work.”
One move that could pay dividends for Chaney and the Tennessee offensive was the hiring of former Vols quarterback Tee Martin to work on Chaney’s staff.
“Tee is a bright guy and has been around a lot of football,” said Chaney. “He brings a lot of good input. He is a fantastic recruiter and fun-loving guy. I am tickled to death that he is here. He is a great sounding board for me to talk about the passing game with. He knows what he is doing, and he is an exceptional coach. We are becoming very close friends, so I am enjoying my time with Tee.”