Jarrett Guarantano doing heavy homework

Marvin Westwestwords

No way to know how it will turn out but Jarrett Guarantano is hell-bent on being the best Tennessee quarterback he can be.

On the holiday weekend when the Volunteers were excused from voluntary workouts, Guarantano flew home to New Jersey for another session in fundamentals and execution with his personal quarterback guru, Tony Racioppi.

OK, it was only money. And the investment of precious fun time. And sweaty effort. And keen concentration.

Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano at Kentucky. Photo By Kelly Gerdin/Tennessee Athletics

Jarrett Guarantano wants to be Tennessee’s quarterback in 2020. He wants to be better than he’s been. He wants to help win more games than he and the Vols have won. I am convinced he will do his best to make this happen.

Jarrett Guarantano has had lots of guidance toward greatness. His father, Jim, Rutgers hall of fame receiver, knows a little something about quarterback play.

Jarrett said, when he was growing up, he and dad would throw the football around in the yard “more than you could ever imagine. I think we were out there every day.”

Jarrett had very good mentors at Bergen Catholic High in Oradell, N.J. He became a four-star college prospect, the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country.

Butch Jones provided some input when Jarrett came to Tennessee. Mike DeBord and Mike Canales were quarterback coaches of record. Graduate assistant Nick Sheridan was a key instructor behind the scene.

Tyson Helton was Guarantano’s guy in 2018. The new boss man, Jeremy Pruitt, contributed when he didn’t like what he was seeing.

Last season Jarrett had the added blessing of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, he of the happy history with quarterbacks (think Drew Brees).

Chris Weinke, official position coach, won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy as Florida State quarterback. Passing game coordinator Tee Martin quarterbacked Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team.

There are other influences in Guarantano’s football life. He has a direct line to Peyton Manning and can get an almost immediate answer to most any question.

Jarrett has been exposed to other great QB minds at the Manning family summer academy. He has been to San Diego to work with George Whitfield, owner-director of a famous quarterback school.

The net result of all this instruction has been topsy-turvy, up and down, a yo-yo career, from SEC player of the week to periods of noticeable confusion.

Jarrett Guarantano looks like a big quarterback. He is 6-4 and maybe 220. He has a sturdy physique and a great arm. He is apparently fearless. He has never been the runner recruiting analysts said he was but he is more than adequate.

He is tougher than old boot leather. He has been knocked down, stepped on and cuffed around. He has made critical mistakes, been chewed out in public, sentenced to the bench and scorned by fans who want somebody, anybody, else as Tennessee quarterback.

Through it all, Jarrett somehow clung to his composure. When hit and hurt, he got up ready to resume the fight. He played despite a broken left hand. He has not ducked responsibility. He admits hesitations caused some of those too-many sacks. He has misread coverages. He has missed completions by being a second slow in delivering the ball, or by throwing where receivers were instead of where they were going.

He has been humbled and embarrassed but never, no way, was he giving up.

The last time we saw him, he was smiling and strolling around the big Jacksonville playground with a Gator Bowl ball tucked under his arm. The Big Orange crowd was in full celebration.

Pruitt told the truth. He said Guarantano did not play well that night. He was wild high and sometimes late. He lost an ugly pick six. He was yanked for a series.

He helped win the game. He hit five in a row in the 10-play, 82-yard drive to Tennessee’s first touchdown. After Eric Gray recovered the onside kick, Guarantano identified a forthcoming blitz, adjusted coverage and hit Josh Palmer over the middle for 23.

Now this: On a day when many of us were checking the grill and our supply of hot dogs, potato salad and baked beans, Jarrett Guarantano was back in football summer school, concentrating on proper footwork, correct reads and precise accuracy on 12-yard curls, slot fades and deep posts.

I suppose you have figured it out. The NCAA declares this as a quiet time when Tennessee coaches can’t coach their players. There is no rule against players or fathers paying for help from private coaches.

If there is a season, if Guarantano is the quarterback, if he finally connects all the dots, maybe you’ll notice the difference, the progress, the payoff.

I know, I know, you say nothing matters except the score. Did we win or lose? In this one case, do remember that Jarrett Guarantano, on July 3 before his fifth year, was still trying to live up to expectations.

Marvin West welcomes reader remarks or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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