It’s no secret that Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has his share of doubters among the Volunteer faithful. The redshirt junior can’t seem to be able to get over the proverbial hump in his career on Rocky Top. Saturday’s 38-30 defeat at the hands of Sun Belt bottom-feeder Georgia State did little to assuage Guarantano’s doubters.
The Down Field Stats team broke down Guarantano’s performance against the Panthers. This article isn’t intended to convince readers, one way or the other, on Guarantano’s effectiveness as an SEC quarterback. Instead, it aims to simply see what the numbers say.
Looking at Guarantano’s passing line from Saturday, one would assume the quarterback had a solid day — he finished the day 26 for 40 (65%) for 311 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, a quarterback rating of 141.8.
However, take away 69 yards of passing and a touchdown for a scoring drive he led with under a minute to go in a 15 point game (he tossed the touchdown with two ticks left on the clock) and the picture changes a bit.
Wipe that garbage time drive away and Guarantano’s line suddenly swings to 22 for 35 (62%) for 242 yards, a touchdown and an interception. That drops his rating from 141.8 to 124.7.
On top of that, Guarantano threw a bad interception on third and goal from the Georgia State three yard line at the end of the first half that was wiped off due to offensive pass interference. The ball likely would have been picked regardless of the interference call.
In August, the DFS team analyzed Guarantano’s 2018 campaign. He finished the year with a 62.2% completion percentage — in line with his adjusted stats (garbage time removed) from the Georgia State game.
However, Guarantano threw 104 of his 246 pass attempts (42.3%) in 2018 either behind the line of scrimmage or within four yards of the line. He completed 78 of these passes (75.0%). [Note that these numbers calculate pass distance from where the ball is caught and do not include any yards after catch]
Pass Result by Distance
Once again, Guarantano thrived on short passes. He threw 40% of his passes within four yards of the line of scrimmage (down 2.3% from 2018) and completed 81.2% of those passes.
His intermediate passing game (passes from 5-19 yards) was virtually unchanged from 2018: 66.7% complete on 19 attempts in 2019 vs. 65.2 percent the year before.
Guarantano struggled to find consistency on throws from 10-29 yards, making 6 poor throws out of 13 throws (46.2%) of that distance. Compare that to 2018, where 14.7% of those balls were thrown poorly. [Note the smaller sample size can lead to an anomaly. This may change as the season progresses]
His one interception against Georgia State came on a throw in the 15-19 yard range.
Spreading the Field
Guarantano continues to favor the left hash to the sideline, throwing 45 percent of his balls in that area. He attempted 25 percent of his throws between the hashes and 30 percent to the right hash and out. Compare this to 2018, where he threw 42.7%, 20.4% and 36.8% respectively.
It will be interesting to see if he uses more of the field as the season progresses.
Third Down for What?
When it came to completion percentage by down, Guarantano was deadly accurate on third down, completing all 7 passes he threw. However, those throws only resulted in a first down on 57.1% of his throws. In order to be successful, his receivers need to extend their routes — and he needs to find the receivers who are further down field.
Guarantano threw the most passes with no tight ends and a running back on the field (four receiver sets), completing 8 of 15 passes (53.3%).
Second-most common was “11 personnel,” with a tight end, tailback and three receivers. He completed 7 of 13 passes (53.9%) in this grouping.
However, he was most effective with five wide receivers, completing all nine passes he threw.
Guarantano threw 35 of his 40 passes out of the shotgun, 3 out of the pistol and 2 from under center.
Play Action Preferred
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney ran play action on 31 of 40 plays (77.5%). Guarantano completed 70.8% of his passes here, versus only 44.4% without the fake.
When the defense sent an extra man (or men), which they did on 22 of 40 plays (55%) where Guarantano got a pass off, he only completed 50% of his passes. Without the extra pressure, he managed a much better 77.3% completion percentage.
Let the Big Dog Hunt
Senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings was Guarantano’s preferred target. He threw to Jennings 9 times, completing 8 passes (the ninth was thrown poorly).
Freshman tailback Eric Gray also saw 9 targets, but only managed 6 completions (1 drop, 1 poor throw, 1 ball batted at the line).
The same problems that seemed to plague Guarantano last year — lack of touch and staring down his targets — seemed to hurt him again in the first game of the 2019 season. His completion stats were relatively similar against Georgia State as they were last year. Tennessee fans are certainly hoping their signal caller can improve going into a pivotal Week 2 matchup against BYU under the lights at Neyland Stadium.
We’ll have a full breakdown of Guarantano’s performance in that game next week.