Football vs. Vanderbilt

Jarrett Guarantano, #2, during the game against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium on Nov. 24, 2018. 

Less than twenty years ago, Chris Weinke won a Heisman Trophy and quarterbacked Florida State to a national championship under legendary head coach Bobby Bowden.

After a stint in the NFL both as a player and an assistant coach, Weinke spent some time coaching some of the nation’s best football players at IMG Academy in Florida before joining Jeremy Pruitt’s staff at Tennessee in 2018.

Last season, Weinke coached the running backs, but returned to his element in the offseason, moving to quarterbacks coach after new hires shifted the coaching staff around.

On Thursday, Weinke was one of three assistant coaches who spoke with the media for the first time during fall camp. He discussed quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, his progress, the new offense under Jim Chaney and what he’d like to see out of the redshirt-junior signal caller.

“I think the more comfortable you get in this offense, obviously you want to see that continue to develop and grow,” Weinke said. “I’m pleased with the progress (Guarantano) has made. He bought into our system.

“This is a QB friendly offense, but it also puts a lot of responsibility on the quarterback. He’s done a fantastic job of grasping this and continuing to make progress.”

While Weinke, Pruitt and new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney have all spoken highly of Guarantano’s progress this past offseason, all three coaches have preached about consistency, not just for Guarantano, but for the whole offense as well.

According to Weinke, consistency has been the biggest emphasis he has put on Guarantano through fall camp.

“I think it’s consistency,” Weinke said. “That’s the biggest thing. As we go through camp, there’s always little things you want to continue to work on. I talk about consistency of your footwork, anticipation, decision making, all of those things.All of those things go into being an elite quarterback, and he has done that throughout camp.”

Consistency in the little things behind the scenes can obviously go a long way in making Guarantano’s junior season his best yet. But relationships with coaches also matter, and Guarantano has built strong bonds with the men entrusted to make him a better player.

“You spend a lot of time talking to him,” Weinke said. “I think the most important thing is you have to have a relationship with your players. Each and every guy plays a little bit different, they all learn a little bit different. The challenge is always this; you have to create competition.

Knowing and understanding that he’s a veteran guy and is going to be our starting quarterback, just having that relationship with him and saying,‘Hey, you have to approach everyday like Tom Brady is in the room and you are competing against him.”

Heading into last season, there was Stanford graduate transfer Keller Chryst on the roster for Guarantano to compete with. While he appears to be the clear starter ahead of the 2019 season, the competition with the two freshmen behind him have helped to make Guarantano more of a teacher and leader.

Weinke says that he has seen more vocal and outspoken Guarantano that encourages those around him in fall camp.

“I think what happens at the quarterback position because you have so many responsibilities,” Weinke said. “Sometimes, you kind of get stuck in your own little box. I think he’s expanded his vision and vocal leadership. You see him encouraging guys, you see him communicating better. I think he’s done a great job with that.”

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