Jeremy Pruitt’s second Tennessee football team was on display on Saturday.
The Vols held their annual Orange and White Game at Neyland Stadium to conclude their spring practice session, with an announced attendance of 50,967.
“I thought it was a really good atmosphere out there today … There were lots of positive vibes,” head coach Pruitt said. “You can feel our fan base, and there was a lot of energy out there today.
“I thought it was an overall good day.”
‘Focused on explosive plays’
One of the key questions heading into the Orange and White Game was what new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s scheme would look like.
While coaches are often vanilla with their play calling during spring games, and Chaney, who called the offense for both the Orange and White team, was likely the same, there was some evidence of a more balanced offense for the Vols.
Tennessee employed numerous formations, including the pistol, shotgun, under center with one running back, I-formation and empty, in which the quarterback stands alone in the shotgun with running backs split out wide alongside the receivers.
“The terminology is definitely different, but I think the way that Coach (Jim) Chaney calls plays is different,” redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano said. “We’re more focused on explosive plays, we want to be able to get the ball up and down and we want to be explosive in the pass and run game.”
Guarantano shines, backups get playing time
Jarrett Guarantano was named MVP of the game, completing 19 of 37 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns.
“I think (Guarantano) has handled the new (offensive) coordinator well, and it hasn’t been a problem,” Pruitt said.
His backups, redshirt freshman JT Shrout and early enrollee freshman Brian Maurer, combined to go 19-of-32 for 256 yards. Shrout threw a touchdown, while Maurer was intercepted twice.
“I was messing with them a little bit about being nervous, but I thought they played pretty well for the most part,” Guarantano said. “Of course there are some things they wish they could get back, but for one they had a great spring, and two, they showed certain things that everybody should be proud of.
“I think they’re going to be good players in the future.”
McCullough makes mark in first action
A surprise standout for the Vols on Saturday was freshman safety Jaylen McCollough.
In his first game-like situation at the collegiate level, the Powder Springs, Georgia, native grabbed two interceptions and also finished with six and a half total tackles and one pass break up.
“Jaylen (McCollough) is a guy that we felt like had ball skills,” Pruitt said. “Really today, as far as spring ball goes, I only remember him intercepting one other ball in 14 practices. But he found two today … He is learning the system. He is showing really good toughness in the spring.
“He’s a smart guy that just has to continue to grow and work back there.”
McCollough joins a young secondary that includes sophomore defensive backs Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson, both of whom started the majority of last season for Tennessee.
The Vols will now shift their focus to the summer, when they will go through camp in preparation for the fall. Tennessee kicks off the 2019 regular season on August 31 against Georgia State at Neyland Stadium.
Until then, it will continue to be a learning process.
“I’ve got to continue during the summertime,” Guarantano said, “with my teammates, just getting to learn the offense better and learn the coaches a little better.”