Josh Palmer is expected to take a major step forward at the wide receiver position in Knoxville this season following the departures of Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway, but it is still unclear who will be throwing him the ball this year. The off-season quarterback battle on Rocky Top has been unprecedented due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, and some suggest that it gives returning starter Jarrett Guarantano the upper hand against his younger teammates; however, during a press conference with the media on Wednesday night, Palmer praised all of the Vols’ quarterbacks vying for the starting role.
“The entire quarterback room has come with swagger,” said Palmer during the press conference. “That’s what we like to see. We feed off of that energy. They’re always competing and pushing each other, especially during and after practice. They’re always putting in extra work. We feed off of it as an offense (and as a) defense. Everybody is ready to ride behind the quarterbacks, and it’s great to watch them improve and grow together.”
Palmer would go on to praise returning starter Jarrett Guarantano when asked about how much he has improved in two seasons under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. “Jarrett’s confidence has always been through the roof, no matter what you might see on television,” continued Palmer. “I feel Jim Chaney, just his presence again for another few years, a lot of guys are able to understand what he wants, what he thinks, what he sees, and it benefits the entire room.”
Jarrett Guarantano has been a polarizing figure throughout Knoxville for most of his tenure on Rocky Top. While he has had moments in his career where his talent is put on full display — such as when he threw for over 400 yards on the road against Missouri in Columbia — he has been largely inconsistent; which has caused frustration for fans all across the state.
Despite the controversy surrounding Guarantano, it is generally agreed upon that he is the front-runner for the starting job in Knoxville, despite the Vols bringing in new talent and potential in freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey.
Other than Bailey and Guarantano, there are two other quarterbacks who have a realistic shot at winning the starting job on campus: Sophomore duo J.T. Shrout and Brian Maurer. While Maurer was able to see more playing time last season, Shrout is increasingly being viewed as a major contender for the starting job due to his improvement over the off-season, and starting center Brandon Kennedy recently claimed that the redshirt sophomore’s mental processing has “gone through the roof.”
While it is important to note that Shrout is improving during his third season with the Vols, it is equally important to remember that Guarantano is likely still the man to beat out in the quarterback room due to his many years of experience. Regardless of who ends up starting behind center this season, Palmer’s comments are very significant, as it shows that the team is united around whomever ends up winning the fierce competition.