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Vols to start redshirt freshman Guarantano at QB

Associated Press • Oct 11, 2017 at 10:06 PM

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano will make his first career start on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

With the Vols (3-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) coming off a bye week and looking to bounce back from their first shutout loss since 1994, UT coach Butch Jones said Wednesday that Guarantano would start against South Carolina (4-2, 2-2). Quinten Dormady was the starter for the Vols’ first five games.

“He’s worked very, very hard,” Jones said of Guarantano. “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 is 12-of-24 passing for 54 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions while backing up Dormady this season. Guarantano also is the more mobile of the two, though he has rushed for only 6 net yards on 10 carries thus far.

Dormady has thrown six interceptions and lost two fumbles in the past four games, the last Tennessee’s 41-0 loss 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 lost the 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 sideline 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 backed up Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Joshua Dobbs the past two seasons. Dormady has completed 55.5 percent of his passes for 925 yards with six touchdowns 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.”

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