Jarrett Guarantano's commitment to Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon was huge for several reasons, but the biggest is the skill set he brings to the Vols' race for quarterback of the future.
For the past few years, coach Butch Jones and his staff have excelled in recruiting the position. But not since Joshua Dobbs pledged to UT on national signing day in 2013 have the Vols snagged a marquee signal-caller who is an ideal fit for their scheme.
Guarantano is that guy.
The 4-star quarterback is the best available prospect at the position for Tennessee's offense in either of the past two recruiting cycles. He pledged to the Vols with an exclusive B/R video from Times Square.
At 6'4", 200 pounds, the Oradell, New Jersey, standout who preps at Bergen Catholic High School has prototypical size with a projectable frame that should add even more weight. He also has what appears to be one of the strongest arms in the entire class.
Just because the nation's sixth-ranked pro-style passer is classified that way doesn't mean he's statuesque, either. Much like Dobbs (who also was rated as a pro-style rather than a dual-threat quarterback), Guarantano has some serious wheels.
He may not run away from everybody in the open field, but his 247Sports profile has him at a 4.59 40-yard dash, which is fast enough to side-step most defenders.
The three key components that make Jones' power zone-read offense click are tempo, tempo and more tempo. Guarantano not only has the arm strength to make all the quick and deep throws within the framework of the playbook, but he can pull and run on the zone read as well.
That element of confusion is pivotal in any read-option offense. Guarantano's first step, shiftiness in the hole and ability to get to the second level are elite.
His athleticism, long strides and angle awareness make the comparisons to San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick less of a stretch, even if those are high expectations to put on a high school junior.
Guarantano told B/R's Tyler Donohue recently that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer likened his passing to former No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith and his running to current Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller.
Those are lofty comparisons, and while every coach uses the success of former players in their recruiting pitches, one glimpse at Guarantano's HUDL film shows why more than 30 teams, including a laundry list of the nation's top programs, offered.
Ultimately, Tennessee won the Guarantano sweepstakes, as he chose the Vols over Ohio State and Rutgers.
It's another extremely impressive win on the recruiting trail for Jones, who beat the legacy factor (Guarantano's father starred for the Scarlet Knights) and the defending national champion Buckeyes.
Tyler Donohue @TDsTake
Guarantano had emotions telling me about RU before filming: “#Rutgers will forever be a great place in my heart...a place I've always loved"2015-4-15 19:11:23
Obviously, his heart was in Tennessee—and getting Guarantano is a massive win for the Vols.
Dobbs will have just one year of eligibility remaining once Guarantano gets on campus. So, the prospect only will have to battle the trio of signal-callers UT signed in the 2015 recruiting class to take over in 2017:
- Quinten Dormady is the mid-term quarterback who has generated the most buzz this spring as a player showing "tremendous progress," according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan. While he has size, arm strength and sneaky athleticism, Dormady is a little more in the traditional dropback-passer style than Guarantano.
- Fellow January enrollee Jauan Jennings has struggled a little more with the mechanics of being a quarterback this spring but will be a true dual-threat player if he sticks at the position.
- The third of the 4-star quarterbacks, Sheriron Jones, has yet to arrive on campus but is also considered a dual-threat athlete. Though he needs some work in the weight room, he is a player UT liked a lot as well.
Any of those players may be the next great Tennessee quarterback, but Guarantano fits the mold of what the Vols want behind center better than any. It was obvious by his comments to B/R that the fit was mutual:
Tyler Donohue @TDsTake
Guarantano talked to me about coach Butch Jones: “‘Brick-by-brick' is a great philosophy because they are building something special there.”2015-4-15 19:06:49
UT coaches may tailor their scheme to a pro-style quarterback if that becomes a necessity, but last season is all the proof you need to see that it runs smoother with some elusiveness back there. Justin Worley never fooled anybody when he ran the read-option, so defenses didn't have to worry.
When Dobbs took over, the offense turned dynamic. Line woes improved significantly and defenses were confused—even an Alabama team that came within a game of playing for the national championship struggled to stop the Vols.
Transitioning from Dobbs to Guarantano—if that indeed winds up being the case—would be seamless. They possess much the same skill set, except Guarantano's arm appears more advanced at this stage.
Once former 2016 quarterback commit Austin Kendall parted ways—in part because former offensive coordinator and lead recruiter Mike Bajakian left for the NFL and also because he wasn't an ideal schematic fit—all the focus centered on Guarantano.
Volquest.com's Paul Fortenberry said the split between UT and Kendall was "more mutual than anything."
The courtship between Guarantano and the Vols escalated quickly.
He visited Knoxville recently before ultimately committing to Tennessee on Wednesday. Ironically, Guarantano attends Bajakian's alma mater but struck up a rapport with new UT coordinator Mike DeBord on his visit.
Also, the family had a relationship with Jones dating back to his time as a graduate assistant for the Scarlet Knights when Guarantano's father played there. Those may have been pivotal inroads for the Vols.
While UT isn't expected to sign a huge class like it has the past two seasons, perhaps getting a quarterback secured will jumpstart what has been a slower start in this recruiting cycle than Jones has been accustomed to in his Tennessee tenure.
Getting the quarterback they coveted most—the perfect player to usher Tennessee's offense into the post-Dobbs era—makes this a huge victory for the Vols on the recruiting trail.
All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports, unless otherwise noted. Quotes and observations obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.