J.G. Vs… Keller Chryst?

Hello Vol fans! I’m back this week with another article for your reading pleasure. This week I’m going to break down exactly why I think Jeremy Pruitt made the right call having J.G. start the year, and Keller as the backup. A large portion of Vol Nation is going to disagree with me, but as I have all season, I continue to stand with my quarterback. In saying that, I also trust our coaching staff’s ability to evaluate talent, and make the best decision for the team. Hear me out, read this through, and trust me when I tell you I watch plenty of film to know what I’m talking about. I am not an expert, but it’s like I often tell my friends. It may be an opinion, but it’s my opinion. Therefore, it’s a very educated opinion. Let’s get this started.

Let me start off by clarifying that I’m not saying that I am 100% sure that Jarrett Guarantano is the quarterback of the future. Now, let me follow that by saying I don’t think there’s a reason to think he’s not the quarterback of now. Even with Keller here, Jarrett is clearly the most consistent quarterback on the roster. Jarrett has completed 128 passes out of 195 attempts for a completion percentage of 65.6% through 9 games this year. Keller has thrown 28 passes with 16 completions, good for a 57.1% completion rating thus far. Keller has played no meaningful game reps this season. Keller has also never finished a season with higher than a 57% completion rating, and has yet to show the talent needed to carry a team. Keller in his time at Stanford threw for almost 2,000 yards, but averaged around a 55% completion rating. Jarrett had a 61.9 percent completion rating last year in the worst season of program history. This year through 9 games, and the tougher part of our schedule, Jarrett also sits at a completion rate of around 65%. He’s got 1,500 yards passing and 9 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. He has made some plays, but he’s also left some points on the board. It will take time for Jarrett to put it all together and truly show his full potential, but there’s plenty to be excited about from him as well!

Consistency aside, Jarrett is just a redshirt sophomore, and has 2 seasons of eligibility left barring injuries. Tennessee will have 2 other scholarship quarterbacks return next year in current sophomore Will McBride and Freshman J.T. Shrout. Shrout is expected to redshirt this year after seeing little to no game action this year. Keller will have no remaining years of eligibility after the 2018 season. So my question is this ; Why not prepare what should be the starting Qb for the next 2 years barring someone taking that position from him? Which I personally don’t see a chance of happening until at least half way through his senior year if he hasn’t taken control of the offense in its entirety by then. Jarrett Guarantano has improved his stats across the board from last year to this year. Even with a patch work offensive line down 2 starters, Tennessee ranks inside the top 10 in the SEC in passing yards per game with just over 205. Jarrett also has doubled his passing touchdowns from last year while still throwing only 2 interceptions. So, for the sake of the next year, and the year after, Jarrett playing these meaningful game reps down the stretch of this year could prove to be valuable experience down the road.

Tennessee does have a stud commit in Brian Maurer in the current class that just threw for 3500+ yards to go along with 34 passing Td’s and 12 Int’s. Many people in the fan base are calling for him to get the reigns early in his time at Knoxville, but there’s no point in throwing him to the wolves and risking his development, if that’s even a thing anymore, by playing him early and him not playing well. By far the smart, safe decision is to stick with Jarrett until he is physically unable to play. If someone proves they are consistently better, and can give this team a better chance to win, start him! But that guy isn’t on this roster. For those that disagree, I ask you to go back and watch the Alabama game. Chryst comes into the ball game around the 8 1/2 minute mark, after Jarrett gets knocked out of the game delivering a dime to Josh Palmer. Palmer went out on the play as well, but would return later. Here’s how the drive played out from that point.

  • 1st Down. Chryst makes a bad read on a RPO, and hands off to the back for minimal gain. Chryst should have kept the ball, and either hit the screen man or tried to pick up a couple himself.
  • 2nd Down. Chryst has good protection, and makes a nice throw back shoulder to Chandler on a LB, but this was probably a better catch than throw.
  • 1st and goal. Jauan motions to the right, Chryst throws a bullet to Chandler on a quick out which just so happened to be a slight pick play. Great play call, but it doesn’t make me think he’s better than Jarrett. No call. Td Vols.

Im not saying Keller is bad. I’m not. I have never played a snap of college football in my life. So in short, I don’t think I have a right to say he’s bad, because I would be way worse. What I can and will say is that the film and numbers aren’t as kind to him as they are to Jarrett. Even in watching his film from Stanford I don’t think he’s a better quarterback than Jarrett. I don’t think his ceiling is as high nor do I think his arm talent is as pure as Jarrett’s. He did lose his job there after he was injured, but he didn’t stay and try to get it back after going down. That tells me something is off. I assume he knew he wouldn’t be able to win his starting job back. So, he booked it to Tennessee where he thought his experience would guarantee him a starting spot over a sophomore who did just go 4–8 for the first time in school history. What he didn’t account for was Jarrett fighting him tooth and nail every step of the way and being just as good if not better than he was. I would also guess he assumed he would beat Jarrett out to start against West Virginia in the opening, and in his defense, so did a lot of Vol fans, including yours truly. I and many others thought Pruitt and Helton would go with the experienced quarterback in the new system. Seeing as it would be new to him and Jarrett it was considered an equal opportunity for both to learn the system over the summer, and it was assumed whoever had a better grasp would surly win. Experience is usually what most people look for in a signal caller, but Pruitt went with youth and his franchise players development over starting the senior grad transfer that he brought in with an 11–2 record as a starter. Pruitt kept his cards close to his vest. Aside from Guarantano taking the majority of the first team reps, we weren’t really sure who would start. The week of the game I believe is when we finally knew it would be Jarrett, and other than garbage time and in injury, Keller hasn’t seen meaningful reps all year.

Tennessee plays Kentucky and Missouri at home, before traveling to Candy to finish off the year. At most we have 4 more games with Keller Chryst on the roster. Jarrett has 2 more seasons. What we as fans need to realize is that in all likelihood, Brian Maurer and J.T. Shrout both will need at least another year or so of development before they will be ready to play significant reps for Tennessee, and even then they are far from guarantees. Stop asking these young guns to come in and be Tua. Jarrett has shown more than enough arm talent, toughness, and progress to lead me to believe he can progress into a very talented quarterback. Only time will truly tell, but lets all take a breath and be glad it’s not 2014!


Beat Kentucky!