As the third week of Tennessee’s fall practice winds down a trio of seniors talked with the media.
Jarrett Guarantano discussed his growing comfort level in Jim Chaney’s system, LaTrell Bumphus talked about his development as a defensive lineman and Theo Jackson talked replacing Nigel Warrior.
Guarantano’s confidence growing in second year under Chaney
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano played each of his first four seasons at Tennessee with a different offensive coordinator.
That’s far from an ideal situation for a developing quarterback. It’s showed up over Guarantano’s career, especially early in 2019, as the signal caller has struggled seeing the field and being on time with passes.
Now, for the first time in his career Guarantano has the same coordinator for consecutive years as Jim Chaney returns for his second season.
“It feels way more comfortable,” Guarantano said of year two in Chaney’s system. “It feels like my mind’s not going 100,000 different places. I have a pre-snap read, a post-snap read and being able to really truly understand the offense’s ins-and-outs allows me to move faster, allows me to see things come open way quicker and more on time and accurately.”
It was a tumultuous 2019 for Guarantano who started in seven games but played in all 12. Despite, getting benched multiple times in his redshirt-senior year Guarantano is expected to be the Vols’ starter for his third straight year.
“My game has a lot less indecisiveness,” Guarantano said. “It’s a complete different feel with me out there right now, I think, I feel like I’m more comfortable and I feel like a lot of the guys see that I’m more comfortable and confident in my abilities and the way’s I can mentally inject my way into the game.”
Chaney, Pruitt and quarterback’s coach Chris Weinke have all echoed that sentiment and if true it could be huge for the Vols’ offense in 2020.
Bumphus making progress at defensive line
LaTrell Bumphus bounced around positions for his first couple years in Knoxville, trying a variety of positions including tight end. Eventually, Bumphus found a home on the defensive line where niched out a role and recorded 23 tackles last year.
While finishing fourth amongst defensive lineman in tackles, Bumphus tied for first with six tackles for loss and tied for second with two sacks.
While, Bumphus feels clear growth from his beginnings on the defensive front, he still believes he has unscratched potential.
“I’m a whole lot more comfortable,” Bumphus said. “I’m just not where I want to be at. I just keep working.”
“I’ve grown a lot. Now I understand the run and that makes me play faster and helps me play the run better. Back then I wasn’t sure. I guess you could say I was guessing, but now I have a better idea and can play at full speed.”
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help Bumphus. While spring practice is usually less important for older players, the senior could have used the reps as he continues to grow at a new position. That became incredibly difficult when he was no longer on campus.
“The biggest challenge was when we were away and trying to get field work,” Bumphus said. “I could go to the field, but I didn’t really have anybody there to walk me through things.”
Vols trying to replace more than Warrior’s production
Nigel Warrior was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of Jeremy Pruitt’s second season in Knoxville. The senior had a breakout season recording 70 tackles and four interceptions on his way to earning All-SEC honors.
Warrior’s role went farther than that though. The safety was the captain of the backend of the Vols’ defense, lining everyone up and giving the calls.
That leadership was on display on and off the field and Theo Jackson is trying to do his part as a senior leader.
“The most thing we lost was like his overall leadership,” Jackson said. “I’m trying to take over that role of being the leader for the back end. I’m just trying to make people closer by calling up db meetings and extra work. … His leadership was the biggest thing we lost.”