KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee has lost the first two games of the season to unranked opponents for the first time since 1953. There's plenty of blame to go around and a lot of people outside the program want to blame the quarterback.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt defended Jarrett Guarantano during his Monday press conference.
"There's no doubt, if you've been around our program the last six months, who the best quarterback on our team is," Pruitt said.
"Jarrett Guarantano has practiced extremely well from spring to fall camp and has made some really nice plays in both games. Jarrett will tell you just like I’ll tell you, we all, myself included, have to raise our standards and expectations in this program and be a little more consistent. That’s everybody. He’s no different than anybody else.”
Pruitt did say that it's important to get the other two quarterbacks, redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout and true freshman Brian Maurer, some playing time to see how they perform in the spotlight.
"It’s been important the entire time. The opportunity has not presented itself. You know, we said in the first game and the second game that if the opportunity presented itself we wanted one or both quarterbacks in the game. Sometimes after you get under the lights a little bit it’s interesting to see how the guys play. We got to get both these guys live game opportunity, so we can see,” Pruitt said.
That opportunity should come this Saturday when Tennessee faces Chattanooga, a team from the lower FCS division of college football.
Pruitt continually mentioned a need for consistency throughout the team but also was pleased with the way the team improved from the first game to the second.
“We have lots of things we can fix, but I feel like when you look at where our team was at in the first week and how much we improved from Week 1 to Week 2, that’s what we have to do. I’ve said it before, we have a young, inexperienced team at a lot positions, and to me that’s the type of improvement that we have to make from one week to the next and we have to continue to do that this week. How did we do that? To me it’s the effort that we gave at practice. I’ve said all along, we had a really good camp. And the difference in the first two games has been turning the football over and not getting turnovers, bottom line. We knew we were going to make some mistakes on defense, there’s no secret there. I think one thing that we did this past week is we called the game more aggressively on defense, which allowed our guys to play more aggressive. Did we make mistakes? Sure we did, but we made them moving forward instead of sitting back on our heels and that’s something that we can build on going forward," Pruitt said.