Tennessee football: Harrison Bailey shows improvement in second start

Tennessee quarterback Harrison Bailey (15) throws a pass during the third quarter at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.Gw56365
Tennessee quarterback Harrison Bailey (15) throws a pass during the third quarter at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.Gw56365 /

Freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey improved in the Tennessee football Volunteers’ win at the Commodores.

For Tennessee football‘s true freshman signal-caller Harrison Bailey, Week 15’s road trip to Nashville, Tenn. brought his first career win in his second start for Rocky Top. While splitting time with redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout, Bailey was 14-of-18 passing and threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns in the Vols’ 42-17 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The road-win against the helpless Commodores was exactly what Bailey and the rest of the Vols’ young roster needed. Sure, everyone has beaten Vanderbilt this year, but Vol fans should be satisfied with the progress Bailey has made over his two starts no matter the opponent.

Week 14 against the Florida Gators, Bailey’s first start, brought hope. We know that Tennessee football lost 31-19, but seeing No. 15 taking snaps from the get-go offered a lively spark to the team and its fans.

In that game, completed 14-of-21 attempts and mustered 111 yards through the air. He also threw his first career touchdown pass to sophomore running back Eric Gray to put the Vols up 7-3 in the second quarter. That was another game he shared time with Shrout.


But the freshman’s first start also exposed some components to tidy up as a young quarterback. Many of the incompletions reflected in his Week 14 completion percentage of 66.7 were bad misses. You just have to chalk up those misses as first start jitters. They were simply uncharacteristic to the former Georgia Class 7A State Champion.

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Florida also sacked Bailey five times, and although UT’s pass protection has been far from good, you always prefer your quarterback to find a way to get the ball off before suffering a loss in yardage. All-in-all, Bailey’s first start was fine and provided pieces to work on.

Bailey’s second start, this time a 42-17 victory in Tennessee football’s favor, told a completely different story from the young Vols’ first outing. The freshman was accurate and efficient. His Week 15 completion percentage of 77.8 paired nicely with a passer rating of 211.

Throughout the game, Bailey did a terrific job of finding open targets all over the field, completed passes to six different targets. He also limited his sack total to just two despite turning the ball over on a very strange strip-sack. Regardless of that play, Bailey clearly showed improvements from his first start against the Gators and has established himself as the Vols’ No. 1 quarterback.

While it’s practically a lock we’ll see Bailey on the field again this Saturday, it’s difficult to say whether or not he’ll be given the entire game to work through. In all likelihood, he’ll end up sharing some snaps once again with Shrout.

Jeremy Pruitt said this past weekend that Shrout, who finished with 90 yards on six completions along with two touchdowns and an interception against Vandy, has been earning time in games because he continues to perform when called upon. With the way the two quarterbacks have played recently, it’s a mystery why Pruitt didn’t give them more chances earlier in the season.

Next. Five takeaways from Vols' 42-17 win at Vanderbilt. dark

At this point, there’s a pretty solid chance that Shrout will see the field yet again this Saturday against the No. 5 ranked Texas A&M Aggies. No matter the case, all eyes will be on Tennessee football’s youngest quarterback, Harrison Bailey, as UT will attempt to upset Texas A&M and finish the regular season at 4-6.