KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jeremy Pruitt made it clear the direction of the Tennessee football offense will be dictated by the personnel, and that means the Vols have three big decisions ahead.
Who is the quarterback? Is John Kelly returning for his senior year? Will Phillip Fulmer and Pruitt approve receiver Jauan Jennings returning to the team?
“I’m a firm believer that you don’t look in the rearview mirror; there is nothing that I can do about what has happened here in the past,” Pruitt said Thursday night. “Nothing that happened here last year is going to affect what happens here in the future.”
Pruitt already has met with the quarterbacks, and Kelly also will meet with him soon.
No updates have been provided on Jennings, who was dismissed after an expletive-filled rant on a social-media platform after being turned away from practice the final week of the season with a cast still on his injured wrist.
1. Who is at QB?
Rising senior Quinten Dormady offers Tennessee its most experienced option running a balanced offense, particularly if his shoulder is healed from surgery in time for the start of spring drills.
If Pruitt decides to run more of a read-option look, redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano comes into play if he has a strong offseason in the weight room and adds weight. Guarantano is a very good athlete, but his durability could come into question.
Rising sophomore Will McBride is versatile enough to run a balanced attack or the read option, showing out better than most anyone could have expected.
The guess here is either Dormady or Guarantano transfers out, and McBride sticks with the program.
2. Is John Kelly returning?
Kelly didn’t have the sort of junior season he wanted, unable to churn out yards the second half of the season behind a makeshift line, and hurting himself with a costly one-game suspension that factored into the loss at Kentucky.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Kelly doesn’t have the measurables that move players up in the NFL draft during the evaluation process, so a productive senior season under Pruitt could benefit him.
But if Kelly doesn’t want to sign up for the hard work ahead — and make no mistake, this offseason will be harder than anything Vols players have endured — he might want to consider leaving early.
3. Will Jauan Jennings be back?
Phillip Fulmer doesn’t tolerate felonies, and Pruitt won’t suffer fools.
Jennings used vulgar language in a social-media rant and called the former coaching staff “snakes” because they wouldn’t let him return to the team the week of the Vanderbilt game and run the wildcat package at quarterback — with a cast still on his broken wrist.
Jennings is a highly emotional, but very competitive, football player. His lapse in judgement showed a level of immaturity when one considers he was a junior.
My guess is Fulmer will leave Jennings’ return to the discretion of Pruitt, who will make the call after meeting with the player.
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