Vols' quarterback room could be crowded next season with additions of Harrison Bailey and Jimmy Holiday

Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano warms up for the Aug. 31 season opener against Georgia State at Neyland Stadium as backups J.T. Shrout (12) and Brian Maurer (18) look on. All three played during the regular season, and coach Jeremy Pruitt added to the crowd by signing two more quarterbacks Wednesday. / Staff photo by Robin Rudd

KNOXVILLE - There have been times this season that quarterback was a frustrating position for the Tennessee Volunteers.

One could argue the lack of consistent quality play behind center played a big role in the 1-4 start in Jeremy Pruitt's second season as coach.

So when he and his staff were recruiting for the 2020 signing class, they went looking for answers at quarterback in hopes of finding someone who would qualify as "his guy."

After Wednesday, Pruitt has options. At least five of them, in fact - for now anyway.

Tennessee already had made a recruiting splash more than a year ago when it received a commitment from Harrison Bailey, a four-star prospect from Marietta, Georgia. The Vols added to it as the early signing period began Wednesday, with Bailey following through and athletic quarterback Jimmy Holiday, a three-star recruit who prepped at Madison Central in Mississippi, flipping to Tennessee after being committed to TCU since the summer.

The two newest Vols quarterbacks, who were part of Tennessee's 21-player signing class, have completely different skill sets. The 6-foot-5, 211-pound Bailey threw for 4,271 yards and 44 touchdowns this year, leading his team to the Georgia Class AAAAAAA state title, while Holiday (6-0, 190) threw for 1,020 yards while rushing for 1,401 with 30 total touchdowns.

Throw in the three scholarship quarterbacks currently on Tennessee's roster - junior Jarrett Guarantano (6-4, 213), redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout (6-3, 213) and true freshman Brian Maurer (6-3, 193), each with his own skills - and you have quite the interesting situation heading into 2020.

"Probably the two guys couldn't really be any more different when you look at them as football players," Pruitt said of Bailey and Holiday. "Harrison's a big guy that has a live arm. He really does a lot of things from within the pocket. He actually just led his team to a state championship. He's a guy that really has anticipation throwing the football. He's a great leader, captain of his football team.

photo Marietta senior Harrison Bailey passes during the GHSA Class AAAAAAA title game against Lowndes last Saturday at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta. The 6-foot-5, 211-pound Bailey, who quarterbacked the Blue Devils to a 17-9 win that night for the program's first state championship since 1967, signed with Tennessee on Wednesday. / Marietta Daily Journal photo by Anthony Stalcup

"Jimmy Holiday's a guy that's a phenomenal athlete. He's kind of one of these guys that you're seeing that's changing the game in pro football right now with his versatility of how he can run the football, different types of run games that he can do. He's a guy that any time he has the ball in his hands, has a chance to go the distance for a touchdown."

While the position may seem crowded right now, there could be attrition.

After a slow start this season, Guarantano came on strong and finished the regular season with 1,937 passing yards and 16 touchdown passes, both career highs. However, he has graduated and could transfer without having to sit out a season or request an eligibility waiver, although he seemed to debunk that thought after passing for 415 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-20 win at Missouri on Nov. 23, which made Tennessee eligible for a bowl for the first time since 2016.

Maurer and Shrout could transfer, too. Each has shown some abilities and gained some experience in 2019, with Maurer appearing in seven games, starting four and throwing for 524 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Shrout was the first quarterback to play against South Carolina. After receiver Jauan Jennings took the first snap, Shrout went behind center, and he finished the game with 122 passing yards in a performance that included his first touchdown pass as a Vol, a 55-yarder Marquez Callaway caught in stride.

Maybe the versatile Holiday chooses - or is asked to play - another position.

Or maybe everybody stays. Tennessee also has sophomore walk-on Kasim Hill (6-2, 234), who started his collegiate career at Maryland and had 12 starts before injuries ended his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Hill threw for 1,313 yards and 11 touchdowns during his time with the Terrapins.

Barring a mass exodus, it will be a crowded room. It will be a competitive room, too.

"It's a good thing," Pruitt said Wednesday. "One thing I figured out a long time ago, you better keep signing quarterbacks until you've got one, because if you don't have one, it's going to be hard to win a game. So we'll have five really good guys on our team, and the way we practice, they will all get an opportunity and get the same amount of reps.

"There will be lots of competition in that room, and that's going to make them all better."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.