Photo: Anna Walker / The Daily Gamecock

Turnover-prone Tennessee set to face explosive Gamecock defense

One year after Jake Bentley took over the reins of the Gamecocks' starting quarterback position, the Tennessee football team (3-2, 0-2 SEC) will be implementing a similar plan when it faces South Carolina (4-2, 2-2 SEC) on Saturday.

Head coach Butch Jones and the Vols will start redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano on Saturday, it was confirmed on Wednesday.

What can fans expect to see from Guarantano, who has seen a decent amount of playing time this season behind Quinten Dormady? The Daily Gamecock sports staff caught up with The Daily Beacon sports editor Tyler Wombles to preview Saturday's matchup.

Q: Tennessee's bye week came at a great time for the Vols, who suffered a 41-0 shutout to Georgia in Week 5. What factors contributed to the blowout loss for the Vols? What was the mood of the team during the bye week?

A: In my opinion, the main problem for the Vols against Georgia was the team's inability to move the ball on offense. Quinten Dormady threw two interceptions and completed less than a third of his pass attempts. Tennessee's defense has improved week to week, but the offense has decreased in productivity through these first five games. However, the team expressed a willingness to improve during the bye week, which Butch Jones says was very productive, so we'll have to see if that willingness creates any results.

Q: The South Carolina defense is coming off a break through performance against Arkansas. The Gamecocks forced four turnovers and scored 24 points off those turnovers. How do you think the Tennessee offense, including standout running back John Kelly, will match up with the Gamecocks' defense?

A: Limiting turnovers has been a problem for this Tennessee offense, so the unit's ability to improve on that aspect of the game will be vital for success against South Carolina. Dormady has thrown six interceptions compared to just six touchdowns and hasn't been helped out by a young wide receiver group. John Kelly has been a catalyst for the Vols all season, though, and can be a work horse when fed the ball, so if Tennessee's quarterbacks are struggling, he can take the load if Jones chooses to give him a large amount of carries.

Q: Both Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano saw time in the Vols' last game against Georgia. How has Dormady looked as the starter in your opinion?

A: Dormady has performed well in some situations this season, including leading the Vols to a comeback victory against Georgia Tech, but has also struggled in many other instances. He appears unconfident in the pocket and paranoid about the pressure around him on many snaps. I think that it is very possible that Jarrett [Guarantano] plays, and even starts, against South Carolina. Jones said that the team is splitting QB reps 60-40 in practice, but didn't say which signal caller was getting the bulk of the reps. It's very likely that both players will make appearances in Saturday's contest.

Q: The last time these two teams faced the Gamecocks came away with a 24-21 upset at Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 29, 2016. What is your prediction (with score) for the Arkansas-South Carolina game and why? Do you see this is as a "must-win" for Tennessee?

A: I predict this game to end as a 27-10 victory for South Carolina. The Vols won't give up another blowout victory, but this team just doesn't seem to be in a position right now to compete with many SEC teams. I do think that this game is a "must-win" for Tennessee, though. Losing this contest would push the Vols to 0-3 in the SEC and take away some optimism for a happy ending to what's been a disappointing season so far for Tennessee fans.

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