KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee will start freshman quarterback Brian Maurer against Georgia on Saturday night, according to an SEC Network report.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said earlier this week Georgia was prepared for the Vols to use three different quarterback options in the 7 p.m. rivalry game at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN).
Redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano opened the first four games of the season for Tennessee (1-3), giving him 22 starts in his career.
But Guarantano, who has yet to show improvement under first-year offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, was benched during a 34-3 loss to Florida on Sept. 21. Chaney is the fourth offensive coordinator Guarantano has had in his UT career.
Maurer is a 6-foot-3, 193-pound freshman from West Port High School in Ocala, Fla., where he was a 4-star recruit.
Tennessee decided to make the quarterback change as early as Monday night, a source told DawgNation.
“Obviously he’s a really good athlete, but so is Jarrett,” Smart said. “I mean, they both can run the ball and both do things with that package. I thought he came in and did a good job (at Florida).
“First series he was in there he did a nice job moving the ball down the field, and he is a good athlete. We know him from high school and have seen him play.”
Smart added that Tennessee “may have Jajuan Jennings at quarterback, there may be a lot of guys.”
Jennings is Tennessee’s most dangerous weapon at receiver, but he was a high school quarterback and former Vols’ coach Butch Jones used him in a Wildcat package.
Smart indicated Maurer is more of a running threat than Guarantano. Still, Tennessee had Maurer throw several passes in a row on one drive against the Gators.
Maurer was 4-of-11 passing for 44 yards with an interception, directing the Vols on their only scoring drive of the game.
Guarantano was 10-of-17 passing for 124 yards and two interceptions against the Gators.
Jeremy Pruitt’s decision to go with a younger quarterback is risky considering the Bulldogs have taken a more aggressive approach on defense in an effort to increase their “Havoc” rate.
Chaney is likely banking on Maurer’s mobility being enough to compensate for his lack of experience.
Smart said the Vols are a dangerous opponent, pointing out that many of Tennessee’s players were highly recruited, some with scholarship offers from Georgia.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys, really good football players,” Smart said. “Those guys have all gotten better and developed, I’ve been able to watch a lot of them since high school.
“(They) have a lot of players that we recruited, and we have a lot of respect for the coaching staff.”
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