5. No proven backup quarterback
We’ve been stressing this throughout the offseason, and Jeremy Pruitt made it more clear at SEC Media Days. But you can’t ignore the fact that Tennessee football does not have a backup quarterback on the roster who has ever taken a snap in FBS play.
Sure, J.T. Shrout has a big arm, the perfect type of arm for a Jim Chaney offense. And he may have gotten a lot of love from pro scouts back in his high school days. Hey, Pruitt targeted him for a reason. But he did redshirt in 2018. So he has no experience under the lights. There’s no way of knowing how he’ll work out.
Brian Maurer, meanwhile, is a true freshman. There’s some value in the fact that he had an early command of the offense in the spring game, but it’s still a spring game. He has a heck of a lot more to prove, and while Shrout is the favorite to be a backup, if he can’t go, the coaches will have to turn to Maurer.
As a result, one of them needs to emerge. The fact is Jarrett Guarantano, despite his potential, was knocked out of three games last year. He gets hit a lot. Even if Chaney works on his release, that’s likely to continue this year.
If Shrout or Maurer is not ready to go should something happen to Guarantano, this entire season could tank. So yes, Pruitt desperately needs one of them to step up. Otherwise, he’s already in danger of things falling apart.