Although the prevailing opinion is that the 2019 QB class is relatively weak, Tennessee absolutely has a huge need at the position. The Vols head into the 2018 season with four scholarship QBs, one of which (Keller Chryst) will definitely be gone after this season; at least one of which (Jarrett Guarantano, Will McBride) quite possibly could leave if he doesn’t win the job this year; and the fourth of which (JT Shrout) is a true freshman and a bit of a project.
That said, the staff doesn’t appear to have a huge sense of urgency, and their QB board is both relatively unknown and at the same time almost surely absent of bigtime names. At this point, we can only definitively say they like Lance Legendre (a Kansas commit from Louisiana) and Brendon Clark (Wake Forest commit from VA). Others they’ve expressed interest in are Zach Calvada (Buford, GA); Jarod Hoyer (JUCO EE who took an unofficial visit for the Orange & White Game; Peter Parrish (Alabama); and Stone Norton (Nashville).
One can’t help but think that while in general the Tennessee staff’s insistence that prospects camp – and in the case of QBs come throw on campus – in order to earn commitable offers is understandable and even impressive, with QBs it could really backfire on them. Tennessee of course famously passed on 4-star QB Sam Howell, who has committed to FSU after having very strong interest in the Vols and has continued to have a strong spring. Yet from the group above, Parrish and Norton (the most lightly recruited of the group) are the only ones currently scheduled to camp at UT this month, and of course Legendre and Clark are committed elsewhere. At the same time, both Calvada and Parrish continue to see their respective recruitments heat up with increasing offers/interest from bigtime programs. In fact, Calvada showed out yesterday on the first day of the Elite 11 Finals, a performance that is sure to kickstart his recruitment even more which would certainly make it harder for the Vols to land him should they choose to pursue him strongly.
Tennessee appears to be the frontrunner for Harrison Bailey, the #2 Pro-Style QB in the 2020 class, and the staff’s calculation could very easily – and understandably – be that they need to “clear the deck” for Bailey. Therefore they could be taking the approach that for 2019 they are going to be both very picky and at the same time willing to take a lesser-rated player. At the same time, no one knows what Guarantano and McBride are thinking, and what kind of prospect Shrout is, better than Pruitt and the staff. So if they think that they can win in 2019 with the current QB situation plus whoever they land in 2019 – even if it’s not a bigtimer – I am not going to argue. But I think it’s fair to at least question their strategy of both passing on Howell and at the same time seemingly slow-playing some other really good looking prospects while other schools appear to be recruiting them harder. It could play out a number of ways, and could absolutely end up with the Vols signing a bigtime QB, but right now Tennessee’s strategy is interesting to say the least and potentially a big gamble.