By Jimmy Hyams
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano played his best game in Tennessee uniform as the Vols upset 15-point favorite and No. 21 Auburn 30-24 on the plains.
Guarantano was even named the Pro Football Focus college quarterback of the week and player of the week by Maxwell.
But UT coach Jeremy Pruitt isn’t ready to put Guarantano in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
“He’s gaining a little confidence to be productive at quarterback,’’ Pruitt said on the weekly SEC teleconference all. “But you have to know the offense inside and out.’’
Pruitt said a quarterback can’t look at the offense “through a straw.’’ He must know everyone’s assignments, where to go with the ball, how to read a defense.
“He’s grown,’’ Pruitt said. “Is he where he needs to be? Absolutely not.’’
Guarantano doesn’t have a boat-load of touchdown passes – 10 in 15 games with 12 starts spanning two seasons – but he has just four interceptions in 264 career attempts and his career completion percentage is .630.
Alabama star linebacker Mack Wilson tweeted Guarantano “plays with way more confidence this year compared to last year.’’
Alabama coach Nick Saban would agree.
“I think he’s playing outstanding,’’ Saban said of Guarantano.
Saban said the Vols have a good system with good receivers and an improved passing game.
“He’s obviously the catalyst behind that,’’ Saban said.
Saban said Tennessee is “playing well, they played their best game of the season against Auburn.’’
For the 15th time, Saban will coach against one of his pupils. Saban has yet to lose. When asked about that 14-0 record, Saban said it is a bit misleading.
“We have an established program and we’ve been winning for quite some time,’’ Saban said.
Saban said that in most cases, his assistants are taking over programs that need to be rebuilt, thus his record against his former assistants is “not a fair analysis.’’
Saban is high on Pruitt. Asked what made Pruitt a good defensive coordinator at Alabama, Saban said: “He’s a really good football coach. He believes in the right stuff. He makes choices to be successful. He’s a very bright football guy. … He’s one of the best coaches I ever had.’’
Pruitt said this edition of Alabama, which averages 53.6 points per game and has led by at least 20 points at halftime of all six games, is “one of coach Saban’s bests teams.’’
Pruitt said he was watching tape of Alabama’s offense and got so discouraged, he didn’t take time to look at the Alabama defense.
“Keeping those guys from making explosive plays will be a monumental task for our guys,’’ Pruitt said.
Alabama has scored a touchdown on its first possession of all seven games. Twice, the Tide scored on the first play. Another time, it scored on the second play.
Pruitt said his team has improved each week – you might argue the Florida game is an exception to that – capped by the road win at Auburn.
But, he cautioned: “We’re still not a great team, I can assure you of that.’’