By Alex Norman
Heading into spring practice, Tennessee’s starting quarterback job looked to be signed, sealed and delivered for rising redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano.
Quinten Dormady announced that he was going to transfer instead of playing his senior season at Tennessee. Rising sophomore Will McBride got some playing time in 2017 when Guarantano was injured, but doesn’t have the talent of Guarantano. True freshman J.T. Shrout has potential, but needs more work before being ready to play at this level.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the season opener in Charlotte against West Virginia.
New head coach Jeremy Pruitt saw what he had on the roster, and thought that they could get better. He had scholarships to offer, and looked across the country to see if there was a graduate transfer that could help the Vols in 2018.
Enter Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst.
He made a visit to Tennessee at the end of February, and on Thursday, March 2nd, word started circulating that Chryst had committed. Later that night, he tweeted “Go Vols!” with a Power T graphic that had the words “Home Sweet Home” on it.
Earlier, Fox Sports Knoxville had tweeted that Chryst was going to be on the Vols roster in 2018, and Chryst’s tweet confirmed it.
Keller Chryst was considered one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the country for the Class of 2014. He committed to Stanford over Georgia, Arizona and Pittsburgh. Chryst also picked the Cardinal over Southern Cal, and that’s where things get interesting.
The offensive coordinator for the Trojans that season was Clay Helton. He recruited Chryst, but couldn’t get him to commit to Southern Cal. In 2016, Clay’s brother Tyson Helton took over as the Trojans co-offensive coordinator when Clay got the head coaching job.
Tyson Helton saw Chryst during his time at Stanford. When he went 11-2 as a starter and played in 23 games. He threw for a combined 1901 yards and 19 touchdowns in what traditionally has been a run heavy offense at Stanford with backs like Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love carrying the load. Chryst completed 55% of his passes.
Fast forward to 2018, and today Tyson Helton is the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Tennessee. When it became known that Chryst was looking to play somewhere in final season of college football, Helton started the recruitment process. And it paid off.
Chryst tore his ACL at the end of the 2016 season and lost his starting job halfway through the 2017 season. He has something to prove and Tennessee will be a fresh start. He has a good arm and is a bit more mobile than Dormady was last season.
Bringing him in is a great move for Pruitt. If nothing else, it gives Guarantano some competition. Best case scenario is that the Vols get some desperately needed leadership and one good season from Chryst, while giving Guarantano more time to learn a new offense and he’ll be ready for 2019 and 2020.
Spring practice will be interesting, regardless.