KNOXVILLE - It wasn't that long ago that J.T. Shrout appeared to become the forgotten man out of Tennessee's three quarterbacks.
Junior Jarrett Guarantano had far more experience. Freshman Brian Maurer seemed to have more flash.
But Shrout maintained, and Saturday given his opportunity, he took advantage of it.
The redshirt freshman had 122 yards and his first collegiate touchdown pass in the Volunteers' 41-21 win over South Carolina. Guarantano had started the first four games of the year before giving way to Maurer. But the latter suffered consecutive concussions in games against Mississippi State and Alabama, and the quarterback door was opened after Guarantano had a miscommunication on a fourth-and-goal against the Crimson Tide that led to a 100-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Coach Jeremy Pruitt never definitively answered questions about who the starter would be going into the game against the Gamecocks. The answer to that technically was receiver Jauan Jennings, who took the first snaps behind center, but Shrout entered the game soon.
"All three of us do a great job of preparing like we're going to be the guy week in and week out," Shrout said Saturday night. "Just preparing, preparing throughout practice, watching film. It wasn't any different than any other week. Tonight was a great experience, and it was great being out there with the guys."
After a pair of ineffective series, Guarantano took over and threw for 229 yards and two scores before breaking a bone in his left (non-throwing) hand, which led to Shrout re-entering the game.
The time out of the game appeared to help him: He was 2-for-4 for 17 yards before being replaced but completed five of his seven passes for 105 yards and the 55-yard touchdown to Marquez Callaway after returning. He also had a perfectly placed 37-yard completion to Jennings on a drive that led to a field goal.
"I thought J.T., for a guy that hasn't played in many games, got better as the game went," Pruitt said Monday. "He kept his poise and was coachable during the game. I think Coach (Jim) Chaney, Coach (Chris) Weinke, Coach (Tee) Martin, Coach (Brian) Niedermeyer, Coach (Will) Friend, Coach (David) Johnson, all those guys did a fantastic job with our offense this week."
Shrout gave credit to the offensive line and the receivers for his performance. Saturday was the first time that South Carolina had failed to register a sack in a game, and time and time again, Tennessee receivers were able to make plays. Jennings had 174 yards receiving and Callaway 102, giving the Vols a pair of 100-yard receivers for the second time this season (Georgia), and Josh Palmer had 55 yards on five catches and redshirt freshman Cedric Tillman had a 19-yard grab.
"It makes it very easy," Shrout said of his success. "We have a great group of receivers. Especially with our O-line up front, they did a great job of protecting Jarrett and I, and the receivers did a great job of creating separation and getting open and making it easy for us.
"My teammates have been awesome, encouraging me, being there for me, and I appreciate all of them for that. It was definitely really fun being out there tonight and getting to throw that first touchdown pass. It was a really fun experience."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.