Tennessee football: Comparing Jarrett Guarantano’s play to SEC QBs

Sep 26, 2020; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Jarrett Guarantano (2) runs against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2020; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Jarrett Guarantano (2) runs against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /

Here’s how Tennessee football Volunteers senior Jarrett Guarantano’s play compared to other Southeastern Conference quarterbacks.

It wouldn’t be Tennessee football without a little bit of quarterback controversy, and for the last four years, Jarrett Guarantano has been the lynchpin of all discussion. It happened again last week at the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Guarantano did enough to win on the road, throwing for 259 yards, zero interceptions, and accounting for two touchdowns: rushing and throwing one of each. He also did a fine job extending some plays with his legs, rushing for 25 total yards with 13 yards lost on 2 sacks.  The mistakes he made were good, bad mistakes, if that makes sense.

As Tennessee football’s signal-caller, Guarantano missed a lot of open orange jerseys. He was 19-of-31, sending a lot of those incompletions over receivers’ heads. If there was ever a time to blame a performance on first game jitters, that time would be it. Had the Vols not held on to win, Guarantano’s accuracy would’ve been made a bigger issue than it was.

Now that we’re all caught up on Guarantano’s Week 1 performance, where does he stack up with the rest of the SEC? Let’s take a look at a few other notable quarterbacks in the league and break down what they did well last week.

Kyle Trask: Florida Gators

Trask posted some monster stats. Beginning what many fans believe could be a Heisman season, the Gators gunslinger threw for 416 yards and six touchdowns without throwing an interception against the Ole Miss Rebels.

The senior out of Manvel, Texas also completed 30 of 42 pass attempts, finishing Week 1 at the Ole Miss Rebels with a 71.4% completion percentage. Trask’s six touchdowns have a lot to do with play-calling and having a tight end addicted to the end zone like Kyle Pitts.

Equally relevant, if Guarantano’s precision improves, he’ll be in a better position to throw for touchdowns once in the red zone.  We already shed some light on Guarantano’s accuracy woes against the Gamecocks, but a nearly 10 percent difference in completion percentage is staggering.

K.J. Costello: Mississippi State Bulldogs

K.J. Costello is probably the story of the week for SEC quarterbacks, which, after reading Kyle Trask’s stats, is really saying something.  Costello threw an MSU and SEC record 623 yards against the LSU Tigers. It was the Stanford transfers first game as a bulldog and his first taste of Mike Leach’s air raid offense. Not a bad debut.

When you throw the ball 60 times in a football game you have a better opportunity to distribute the pigskin. There were 10 Bulldogs who caught passes last Saturday, and six players finished with two or more receptions. Five of those players had more than 50 yards receiving.

UT, meanwhile, had seven skill players catch passes against South Carolina. Only two of them went for over 50 yards. Brandon Johnson had three catches for 73 yards, and Josh Palmer had six receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Related Story. Five Vols to watch for against Missouri. light

Mac Jones: Alabama Crimson Tide

We’ve saved Mac Jones for last on this list because he was successful against the Missouri Tigers defense Tennessee football will face on Saturday. Comparably to Guarantano, Jones threw for 249 yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the air. Much like the Vols’ offense, Bama divvied up rushing and throwing attempts fairly evenly, running the ball 36 times and throwing 32.

So, what was the key to success for Jones against Mizzou? He was efficient behind center.  Of the 24 opportunities he had to throw the ball on Saturday, he hit his receiver 18 times for a 75% completion percentage.

The junior averaged 10.4 yards per completion and finished with a QBR of 95.2, currently the highest rating among quarterbacks in college football. If Guarantano can make the most of his throws and continue to stretch plays on his feet, the Vols will have a great chance of improving to 2-0 at Neyland.

dark. Next. Tennessee-Missouri: Keys to the game

It doesn’t take much to see Guarantano’s stats aren’t nearly as eye-popping as some those displayed here. However, Rocky Top’s identity has never been based on scoring 40+ points to win a game. If it takes more than 40 points to win each week the quarterback is probably not the team’s biggest concern.

Whether you believe Jarrett Guarantano is capable of improving in year four with Tennessee football or not, he’s the guy Jeremy Pruitt trusts with leading the offense. Improving accuracy and getting more skill players involved will be important keys to success as this season progresses.