Tennessee's quarterback situation is "undecided" after starter Jarrett Guarantano was briefly benched after throwing two pick-sixes in Saturday's 34-7 loss to Kentucky, which won in Knoxville for the first time since 1984.
Guarantano was benched early in the second quarter following three consecutive turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble). Sophomore J.T. Shrout replaced Guarantano and immediately threw another interception. Guarantano, a senior, returned and led No. 18 Tennessee (2-2, all in the SEC) on its only scoring drive. He finished with 14 completions for only 88 pass yards.
"It's undecided," coach Jeremy Pruitt said of Tennessee's quarterback situation going forward. "When you lose 34-7, everybody within our organization, you've got to look and see what went wrong. We could make changes at any level."
Pruitt noted Tennessee's four turnovers in the first half played a significant role in the loss, but did not blame Guarantano for most of the miscues.
"The first thing is, getting the ball knocked out of his hand, that wasn't his fault," Pruitt said of Guarantano's fumble in Kentucky territory. "He should have taken the check-down when he threw the ball down the middle, and on the whatever route we ran out there on third-and-4, I'm not crazy about the call, to be honest. And that's my fault. ... Should we have thrown it? I don't know. I've never been a big fan of throwing 35-yard out routes to gain 4 yards."
Shrout had only one pass attempt in the loss, while freshman Harrison Bailey led Tennessee's final drive, which occurred with the game out of reach. Pruitt said sophomore quarterback Brian Maurer is still trying to catch up after missing most of preseason practice with a hamstring issue and because of COVID-19 quarantine.
Guarantano has made 29 career starts, eighth most in team history. He threw only two interceptions in the final eight games last season and avoided one in the first two contests this fall, but has three in his past two appearances.
"I'm always going to have Jarrett Guarantano's back, regardless," star offensive lineman Trey Smith said. "Going forward, I don't want to see any Jarrett Guarantano slander."
The Vols host No. 2 Alabama next week.
ESPN's Harry Lyles Jr. contributed to this report.