Spring just the beginning for Vols' football competition

Tennessee quarterbacks Will McBride (17) and Jarrett Guarantano, left, stand with quarterbacks coach Mike Canales on the sideline during the Vols' win over Southern Miss this month.

Editor's note: This is the fifth story in a series previewing Tennessee football before spring practices begin Tuesday.

photo Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)

Discussing Tennessee's new offensive scheme and the quarterback battle that will start when spring practices begin Tuesday, first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt was quick to clarify recently that the competition is not restricted to two players.

"We still have Will (McBride), and we have some other walk-on guys that they'll get the same opportunity, too," Pruitt said.

Jarett Guarantano and McBride will be the only scholarship quarterbacks in spring practice, as freshman J.T. Shrout and graduate transfer Keller Chryst will not join the mix until preseason practice in late July. But the message from Pruitt is clear. The quarterback competition is wide open.

"One thing about us is, in the past, we have played a lot of walk-ons," Pruitt said, referring to his time as an assistant at Alabama, Georgia and Florida State. "On championship teams we've always had walk-ons contribute for us. That's what happens when you practice the way we practice. You get the same opportunity, so the best players will play."

The spring will give Pruitt and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton their first thorough, in-person evaluations of the quarterbacks.

Guarantano, who replaced Quentin Dormady as the starting quarterback in the 2017 season, will be a redshirt sophomore. McBride was on track to redshirt as a freshman last season before an injury to Guarantano forced him into action.

After returning from his injury, Guarantano spoke like an emerging team leader after Tennessee's season-ending loss to Vanderbilt.

"The coach is going to change, we're going to be working our tails off every single day and we're just going to have to get things done no matter who likes it," Guarantano said. "If they don't like it, they can leave. That's just how things are going to be from now on."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.