The Orange and White game — like any other spring game — is accurately described as a glorified practice.
Nobody can touch the quarterback, any injury — regardless of its degree — places a player on the sideline for the afternoon and the players likely don’t place too much emphasis on a scripted scrimmage five months before actual football.
But with the 2017 version of the Orange and White game came a storyline debated in every classroom and barber shop in Knoxville: Who’s succeeding quarterback Joshua Dobbs?
Five quarterbacks are on the depth chart, but it’s widely understood only two legitimate candidates exist: Junior quarterback Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano.
Although head coach Butch Jones has insisted all spring that the quarterback competition is close, Saturday’s culmination of spring football told a completely different story.
Dormady isn’t the sexy, dual-threat quarterback Guarantano is — he’s a pure pocket passer, a trait that’s foolishly been used against him. He also didn’t exhibit a level of extroverted swagger during post-practice interviews that his confident, if not naive, counterpart often did. Instead, he exhibited nothing but complete control of Larry Scott’s offense, as well as the poise and accuracy needed for an SEC quarterback.
If first impressions mean everything, Dormady made the most of his. He navigated the opening drive like a seasoned veteran, operating in a number of personnel groupings while executing a variety of throws, from quick rollouts to endzone fades to Jauan Jennings to downfield dimes to Ethan Wolfe.
— A to Z Sports (@AtoZSports) April 22, 2017
On the other hand, Guarantano predictably played like a redshirt freshman on his debut drive. After a pair of handoffs, Guarantano’s first pass attempt was nearly intercepted by D.J. Henderson. On the throw, Guarantano was clearly affected by pressure, but not in the traditional sense that a quarterback is. Instead of rushing a throw, the fan-favorite actually spent too much time evaluating the field. The problem was, he failed at multitasking. While keeping his eyes downfield, his pocket maneuverability was a disaster and his footwork came undone. By the time he decided to make his throw, the damage had already been done.
Dormady followed his razor-sharp opening drive with a worthwhile encore performance. If he put Guarantano on notice with his execution on the opening drive, then Dormady’s second drive was him grabbing the competition by the throat. His 19-yard touchdown pass to Eli Wolfe was an absolute gem. His pocket presence can only be described as pristine. Under the chaotic conditions of a hectic pocket, Dormady calmly stepped up, quickly scanned the field and delivered strikes in tight windows.
Guarantano showed progression in his second drive, but the issues that plagued his first career attempt popped its ugly head once again on a pair of throws during his chance at redemption. He completed all four of his passes, but one completion — which came on a third down — was grotesquely inaccurate.
— A to Z Sports (@AtoZSports) April 22, 2017
Both Will McBride and Zac Jancek failed to take a rep. Credit that to the storm, which prematurely ended the game at halftime. Even with reps, neither has the body, arm or accuracy to survive a single moment of SEC football.
The only other quarterback who received an opportunity to show off his skill set was Sherion Jones. Although the redshirt sophomore is deserving of the “Tennessee hype man” title, Vol fans better pray to the high heavens he never sees any meaningful snaps during the regular season.
Let’s start with the positives: Jones is mobile.
Alright, the positives are done.
Now for the negatives.
On throws outside the numbers, Jones was a cataclysmic failure. His first pass attempt wasted a gorgeous route by tight end Jakob Johnson, who was wide open as he ran toward the sideline, but Jones put so much air underneath his pass, that only the attendees had a chance to make the catch. On another outside pass — this time of the short variety — Jones was so inaccurate that his intended target — running back Taeler Dowdy — was forced to land awkwardly, resulting in the game’s lone injury.
With those two throws also came sloppy footwork and poor body language. Jones knew he played bad, but even when Guarantano struggled, he still displayed optimism. Jones might be the hype man, but he certainly isn’t the leader.
Guarantano wasn’t even subpar on Saturday — he was just bad. But Tennessee faithful can rest at night knowing Jones isn’t the backup.
Dormady was master class on Saturday, while Guarantano clearly isn’t the quarterback fans expected him to be… yet.
With Dormady, the Vol offense played under three personnel packages fairly evenly — 10, 11 and 12. Meanwhile, Guarantano was primarily placed in 11 personnel. The offensive variety under Dormady was evident despite such a small sample size, and in a conference full of defenses who blend elite athleticism and high-football IQ at a daunting level, any shade of unpredictability is paramount.
Furthermore, when Dormady faced pressure, he was swift in his movements and decision making. Guarantano was not, as evident by his late, off-target throws and two accepted sacks.
At the end of the day, the Orange and White game is and will always be a glorified practice, but Butch Jones doesn’t need the summer to ponder who the starting quarterback should be.
[efstable width =”100%”]
[efsth_column]Cmp/Att under pressure[/efsth_column]
[efsrow_column]10 accurate/0 inaccurate[/efsrow_column]
[efsrow_column]3 accurate/2 inaccurate[/efsrow_column]