While the focus of the television cameras may have been focused on the Team 121 trash can on the sideline, used by the Vols to dunk footballs following turnovers, there was a more interesting story going on that was somewhat overlooked.
Yes, the trash can became meme fodder for opposing fan bases and even Vol fans looking for a reason to critique head coach Butch Jones. The fact remains the turnover dumpster was on the sidelines during the 2016 season, it just did not get the attention that it did on Monday night against the Yellow Jackets.
The more interesting storyline was the attitude of redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
Multiple times, cameras caught him sitting on a bench on the sideline, appearing to be uninterested it what was going on with the game. He was not interacting with starting quarterback Quinten Dormady. He barely reacted to a huge touchdown catch by sophomore Marquez Callaway. After looking back at the game, he did not appear to be involved in offensive huddles, something that most back-up quarterbacks turn their ear to so, even though they are not playing, they are on the same page and can use it as a learning experience.
Instead, Guarantano sat on the bench, biting his nails.
He was not biting his nails in the sense of chomping at the bit for a chance to get in the game. It was more of a upset that he thought he would or should have been in the game at some point.
— Austin Stanley (@AustinStanley81) September 5, 2017
As Dormady faced some new starter struggles in the first half, Guarantano put his helmet on as if he was told he would be going in for a change of pace. That did not happen.
Prior to the Vols’ season opener, it was discussed how Jones needed to handle his quarterback situation carefully. You can read that here. That said, it appeared throughout the game Monday night that Guarantano was told one thing, but the exact opposite happened.
During his press conference on Wednesday, Jones addressed the sideline demeanor of Guarantano stating, “I know there was a lot out there with Jarrett and all I can tell you is this: Jarrett’s a good teammate, he’s always been a good teammate and he’s a competitor. He wants to be in there, but also, he has a tremendous amount of respect for everyone in this program and the players.”
Jones added, “The message is always the same: You’re always one snap away and you have to be ready. It’s the first game where he’s really been in that situation, and really Quinten went through the same thing in his process as well behind Josh. Sometimes you’re antsy, you’re ready to play.”
That is all well and good. Jones has heard the outside noise of Guarantano’s attitude on the sideline. He’s going to bat for his player which he should do. No one is doubting that.
That said, this is not a one game situation.
One source close to the program has told VFL Insider a teammate has discussed Guarantano’s sideline demeanor with him prior to this season. It is understandable to be frustrated that you are not playing. It is another thing to give the appearance that you are not supporting your teammates, that you are annoyed to be there.
By no means is anyone saying Guarantano is a bad teammate. But as the old saying goes, appearances are everything.
Coach Jones said throughout the summer he was considering a dual quarterback system. It is very likely that Guarantano was told he would play at some point Monday night, but that never happened. That could very easily explain his obvious frustration throughout the game.
Butch Jones on Vol Calls: “Quinten has earned the right that really started in January.”
— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) September 7, 2017
As mentioned previously, Jones has an interesting situation on his hands at the quarterback position. We will find out this Saturday against Indiana State how he handles it. It is very likely Guarantano will play some against the Sycamores.
The question is, will snaps in garbage time make him happy or will he slam dunk them in the Team 121 trash can?
Follow Andrew on Twitter at @AWDarago