One of the most experienced quarterbacks on the transfer market will move across the country to finish his career at Washington State.
On the heels of a rocky redshirt senior season at the University of Tennessee, Jarrett Guarantano, once considered the top dual-threat quarterback in high school football by 247Sports.com, announced Friday he’ll be spending his final year of eligibility in the Pac-12 with the Cougars, injecting experience into one of the conference’s youngest quarterback rooms.
“Unbelievable opportunity!” Guarantano tweeted Friday afternoon. “Truly thankful and can’t wait to get to work! #GoCougs”
Just hours after Guarantano posted his tweet, the school announced the quarterback’s addition in an official capacity, as well as that of TCU transfer linebacker and Sumner, Washington, native Ben Wilson, who’d committed to the Cougars weeks earlier.
Guarantano played in 41 games over four seasons for the Volunteers, making 32 starts, but his final season in the SEC came with more lows than highs. He started the first seven games of the 2020 season at Tennessee, but the Volunteers were 2-5 during that span and Guarantano threw for only 1,112 yards – an average of 158.8 per game – and recorded six touchdowns with four interceptions. He was also sacked 15 times before being replaced by J.T. Shrout and Harrison Bailey.
The native of Lodi, New Jersey, was a redshirt senior in 2020, but the NCAA afforded all players an additional year of eligibility as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning Guarantano will be a sixth-year senior at WSU this fall. As things stand, he’ll be one of five scholarship QBs on WSU’s roster, joining freshman starter Jayden de Laura, redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz, redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper and incoming freshman Xavier Ward.
Some have predicted Cruz or Cooper would transfer in the offseason after losing the starting job to de Laura. The addition of Guarantano could be another sign that one, or both, of WSU’s backups plan to leave the program before spring camp.
De Laura’s debut season as WSU’s starter came with mixed results, both him and the Cougars, but the positive moments seemed to outweigh the negative ones. If nothing else, fans were encouraged by the potential de Laura showed as a passer and runner, throwing for 886 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions, while contributing two TDs on the ground.
The freshman’s play dipped in the final two games of the season, though, as de Laura threw one touchdown with three interceptions while being sacked six times in losses at USC and Utah. While he demonstrated a solid understanding of head coach Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense, winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week after a season-opening win over Oregon State, he also wasn’t immune to the occasional freshman mistake and committed five turnovers against the Trojans and Utes, including two fumbles.
De Laura’s experience in the run-and-shoot system – at WSU and Honolulu’s Saint Louis – as well as the rapport he built with teammates during a truncated four-game season, should give him an advantage over Guarantano when spring camp opens. The veteran transfer, meanwhile, has the edge in overall game experience. Similar to de Laura, he seems to possess a skill set that could make him an ideal fit in Rolovich’s offense, though his passing numbers have always been underwhelming.
As a high school player, Guarantano was tabbed the nation’s top dual-threat QB, throwing for 3,028 yards and 28 touchdowns, while rushing for 523 yards and 12 touchdowns at Bergen Catholic in New Jersey. Guarantano reported offers from Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and others, but chose Tennessee over Rutgers, where his dad was once a standout receiver.
Guarantano will hope to draw on his success as a sophomore and junior as he enters the fray in Pullman. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder wasn’t extremely productive as a junior at Tennessee, but he was more consistent, and played in all 13 games for a team that finished 8-5 with a win over Indiana in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Guarantano started in seven games, finishing with 16 touchdowns and eight interception, totaling 2,158 passing yards.
As a sophomore, he shattered the school record for consecutive passes thrown without an interception, completing 166 throws before throwing a pick. Guarantano also became the first Tennessee starter since 1972 to throw only three interceptions in a season.
In his four seasons at Tennessee, Guarantano amassed 6,174 passing yards with 38 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He completed 61% of his passes and finished with minus-62 net rushing yards. Guarantano did rush for five touchdowns, with four of those coming during the 2020 season.
It signifies the third time in four years the Cougars have taken a chance on a graduate transfer QB. But it’s the first time they’ve done so under Rolovich and also the first time they’ve done so with a returning starter in the fold.
In 2018, Gardner Minshew had arguably the best season of a grad transfer QB in college football history, perhaps with the exception of Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, finishing fifth in Heisman Trophy voting while leading WSU to a program-record 11 wins.
The following year, former WSU coach Mike Leach recruited Eastern Washington’s Gage Gubrud to Pullman, but the former FCS star lost a position battle to Anthony Gordon, who went on to set school and Pac-12 single-season records for passing yards, passing TD, completions and total offense.
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