FRISCO, Texas – With Jarrett Guarantano entering his junior season, Tennessee is beginning to anticipate life without the returning starter, who made noticeable strides during his career.
When it comes to the current recruiting cycle, coach Jeremy Pruitt and the Volunteers have identified a strong contender to eventually step into Guarantano’s shoes in Marietta, Ga., four-star quarterback Harrison Bailey.
“They’re a rising program with a lot of great coaches,” Bailey said of the Volunteers.
Bailey, who gave his verbal commitment to Tennessee last November over offers from nearly every power in the Bowl Subdivision, was one of 20 quarterbacks in attendance at the Elite 11 competition, the annual quarterback showcase that precedes The Opening, held this summer at the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility.
Harrison Bailey is committed to Tennessee and expected to be the heir apparent to Jarrett Guarantano. (Photo: John Silas, Special to USA Today Network)
(Guarantano opened eyes at the same event in 2015, vaulting himself from a well-regarded but underrated New Jersey product into one of the top quarterback recruits in the country.)
“I wanted to come in, have fun, create relationships with people and have a good time with the guys,” Bailey said. “My focus was really just to have fun and compete.”
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If on a larger scale than the many regional events, 7-on-7 tournaments and camps that litter a high-end quarterback recruit’s summer schedule, the Elite 11 didn’t represent uncharted territory: Bailey has been a fixture on the quarterback circuit since before his freshman year, when he first burst onto the scene as a national-level prospect.
When he gets to Knoxville, Bailey “will be as prepared as probably you can be,” said Barton Simmons, the national director of scouting for 247Sports.com.
Coaches tabbed with instructing and evaluating the Elite 11 class – including Jordan Palmer, a former NFL backup, and ex-Texas A&M starter Jerrod Johnson – singled out Bailey for his strong and accurate arm, off-field approach and consistent play during workouts and 7-on-7 drills.
Bailey finished as the second-ranked quarterback, per the final Elite 11 standings, placing the rising senior above six other passers currently committed to programs in the SEC – including prospects headed to East Division rivals Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
While recruiting is an inexact science, the Elite 11 track record speaks for itself. Just in the past four summers, the event has drawn former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Michigan’s Shea Patterson, among others.
While Bailey is firmly committed to Tennessee – “I’ve been out recruiting for them,” he said, and talked to several skill players at The Opening about the Volunteers – other programs haven’t stopped reaching out to gauge his interest.
“I’ve been hearing from a couple schools,” Bailey said.
Fending off any rival suitors in the months before college football’s early signing period might be one of the biggest keys to Pruitt’s second full recruiting class: Tennessee has just two on-scholarship quarterbacks behind Guarantano in redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout and true freshman Brian Maurer.
In terms of overall pedigree, however, neither of the two underclassmen rival Bailey’s advance billing.
“He’s a really tested, productive, accurate quarterback who is a little bit stationary but extremely talented,” said Simmons.
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