KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been phoning a few friends to get an idea of what to expect Saturday when he faces No. 1 Alabama in his first career road start.
Guarantano concedes he can’t fully get a handle on what he will encounter until he steps onto the field.
”In high school, I played some tough road games and I think that is what I can base it off,” Guarantano said. ”But there is not going to be much to put up against Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country.”
Guarantano has asked Mississippi quarterback Shea Patterson about the atmosphere at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium. He also has been in frequent contact with former Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
As a true freshman in 2013, Dobbs made his collegiate debut against a top-ranked Alabama team on the road after starter Justin Worley was injured. Dobbs led the Vols to their lone touchdown in a 45-10 loss .
”I have talked to JG throughout the season just to make sure his mind is in the right place and he is working hard,” said Dobbs, now a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. ”I know last weekend was tough, so I’ll reach out to him this week to check on him too.”
Guarantano carefully observed Dobbs while redshirting last year. Guarantano noticed how Dobbs dealt with being the face of Tennessee football.
”I definitely learned a lot from an offensive standpoint,” Guarantano said. ”But just from a personality standpoint in how he treats people and how he goes about his business, I definitely learned the most from him.”
In his first start since replacing Quinten Dormady, Guarantano went 11 of 18 for 133 yards last week in a 15-9 loss to South Carolina .
”One thing that you can’t put a price tag on is playing experience,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. ”I liked the command presence he brought. I thought our players fed off his leadership.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban also was impressed.
”I thought he did some really good things,” Saban said. ”The guy is a very good athlete.”
One person who wasn’t particularly enamored with Guarantano’s aggressiveness was his mother. She cringed when he threw a lead block for running back Ty Chandler on a 30-yard gain.
”That got me in trouble with mom after the game,” Guarantano said with a smile. ”She got a little nervous, and I told her I got to do what I got to do for the team and make plays.”
That play was just one of the ways in which Guarantano offered Tennessee fans a glimpse of his personality. He pumped his fist in exhilaration after a first down and spiked his helmet in frustration after the final play.
”Whenever I play football, it’s an emotional game for me and I have a lot of passion for it,” Guarantano said. ”I hate losing, and whatever I can do to win, I do. It goes back to when I was a baby.”
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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