After patiently waiting behind Josh Dobbs all last season, Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady are so close to becoming the next quarterback at Tennessee they can taste it.
“People say they’re hungry,” new Vols quarterbacks coach Mike Canales said, “I think they’re starving.”
“They want to be the guy. They’re competing so well, and they’ve taken it to the field from the meeting room on to the field in practice and scrimmage situations. I think it’s great for them because they all want to be the guy and understand what it takes.”
Canales, meeting with the media for the first time since spring practice began, gushed about the entire room’s development and improvements this spring, specifically highlighting the group's pocket presence, accuracy and command of the huddle.
Adhering to a theme established by both head coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Larry Scott, Tennessee's quarterbacks coach certainly never tipped his hand on who was winning the battle, but Canales made sure he praised Guarantano, Dormady and even early enrollee Will McBride.
“Their pocket presence. They’ve done a great job eluding and extending plays, keeping their vision downfield, moving the platform,” Canales explained. “I’ve seen vast improvement on that. I’ve seen accuracy improvement. They are really working on locating the ball, putting the ball inside the frame. They understand to keep the guy on the move when he’s on the move running crossing routes or moving routes.”
The Vols wrapped up their final true practice this spring Thursday, and this weekend, Dormady and Guarantano will get a chance to showcase their spring growth during Saturday’s Orange and White game. While both competitors have done various drills, routes on air and even scrimmage sessions in front of media, high school coaches or families, Saturday’s opportunity will be a totally different environment.
“It’s going to be great for them to finally get in an environment where there’s a lot of people in the stands and they’ll actually get a chance to compete and show what they can do,” Canales said.
“I think every practice they’ve come out and made it game-reps and game time in terms of prep, but when they get on the field they compete. They understand that. They understand Saturday is going to be a big part of it. They get it.
"Obviously it won’t be the deciding factor on who will be the starting quarterback, but they get that it’s important in front of people and they want to go out and show well. They’re anxious to get on the field. I don’t think they’re nervous, but they’re anxious. They’re confident and they’re cocky. By that I mean, they feel confident about going out and doing it.”
Scott recently said the battle “would sort itself out,” so Canales wants both Dormandy and Guaratano to take ownership of the team this offseason. He wants them to become “the CEO of the offense” and to “lead.”
“They have to understand they have to take that leadership role,” Canales continued.
“They have to understand when they have to push and pull and be able to lead their group with their actions as well as verbally.”