As West Virginia heads towards Saturday and it’s match up against Tennessee, the WVU coaching staff is being forced to prepare for two different possible single callers under center. Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt has not publicly announced who will be leading his team on Saturday as they’ve been in the midst of a heavy quarterback battle between Keller Chryst and Jarrett Guarantano. Below we will do some breakdown on the two different options the Volunteers have and what Mountaineer fans can expect.
Keller Chryst is a senior graduate transfer from Stanford and has good size at 6’5″ and 239 pounds. He is the nephew of current Wisconsin head coach and former head coach of Pitt, Paul Chryst. While operating Head Coach David Shaw’s pro style offense at Stanford, he threw for 1,785 yards, 18 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, with a completion percentage of 56.3. Then after his seventh start, his season was brought to an abrupt end when he tore his ACL. In his absence highly touted K.J, Costello took over the offense and never looked back. If not for the injury, it is very likely Chryst would be playing his senior year at Stanford.
He posses solid arm strength and a good ability to stretch the defense with both down field accurate throws as well as the arm strength to make quick passes to routes outside the numbers. This causes secondaries to cover the entire field and stretch themselves out, allowing for more vulnerable gaps. He has the ability to scramble for a first down if necessary and is quite dangerous when rolling out of the pocket in play action. Tennessee will likely use run-pass options, just like Stanford utilized with quite a bit of success with him at quarterback.
One of the benefits of his advanced skill set, is it gives him the ability to execute a large amount of routes effectively. Often quarterbacks have a few styles of routes that they can throw to well but his arm strength, timing and accuracy will give Tennessee offensive coordinator, Tyson Helton, a great deal of options in the passing game. Here you can see a beautifully timed and thrown ball on a slant route in the red zone.
Below, both of these receivers face one on one press man coverage against Oregon. In both situations, Chryst delivers a beautiful ball, over the corner, to his receiver in stride. This is a very difficult throw and shows a great deal of poise and confidence by the quarterback.
Chryst’s biggest flaw was occasionally losing track of underneath defenders such as linebackers. He would also periodically make under powered throws, that could lead to easy interception possibilities. Below, he calls an audible; during the confusion of a play, he narrowly escapes an interception when he loses sight of the middle linebacker.
Guarantano, a sophomore who started six games year, threw for 997 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He became the starter part way through the season but during his tenure the Volunteers went an unprecedented 14 quarters without an offensive touchdown. Like Chryst he posses good size at 6’4″ and 209 pounds.
Guarantano is a great athlete and has the ability to make great plays with his legs. If chosen to start, he will cause defensive coordinator, Tony Gibson to specifically game plan against him to counter his running abilities. This may involve keeping an extra linebacker close to the scrimmage in what they call a “spy” or using more zone defense, as it allows defenders to face the quarterback while playing and react faster to a scrambling quarterback.
It will be imperative for WVU to play sound when it comes to gap and lane assignments against Guarantano. If not, he will be very hard to contain and will have big play opportunities. Here you can see the defensive end at the top of the screen rushes up field, past the quarterback, losing his ability to keep the QB in the pocket. This allows Guarantano to escape and make a significant gain downfield.
His strength in the passing game tends to be shorter throws. His passes less than 30 yards downfield have more accuracy and better timing than those that stretch beyond that. The short passing game is why he was able to amass an impressive completion percentage of 61.9 last season. Here you see him wait patiently for a window to open on a crossing route in zone coverage. This is a good example of him waiting for an opening to appear in the defense, not forcing a throw or scrambling prematurely.
Below you can see Guarantano makes a great play for a touchdown. The play though is very risky and unnecessary as he throws the ball into tight double coverage. He stares down his intended target which is why the safety(defender in white closest to end zone) is so tight on the backside of this play. This is a high skill level throw and it is well executed but at the top of the video you can see there is an open WR. This receiver is open because the safety followed the undisciplined eyes of the quarterback. The receiver at the top would have been a much easier and safer throw. So despite the pass going for a touchdown, he shows poor on field discipline by staring down his receiver and had poor vision of the field of the defense.
If he saw the safety following his eyes he could have easily turned and thrown the ball to the top receiver without any chance of the safety being able to make a play on the ball and make a much easier and less risky completion. In the clip below you see Tagoviloa of Alabama stare downfield, cause the safety to stay in the middle of the field and make an easy throw for a touchdown that consequently won them the national title.
Guarantano has a good arm but lacks the accuracy, developed route tree and field vision of his counterpart. Chryst has far more ability to sit in pocket and make accurate throws in long down and distance situations and against either man or zone coverages. Guarantano has far more athleticism, allowing him to be more of a rush threat and have better ability to avoid defensive pressures on broken plays. Chryst certainly seems to be the logical choice, but the real question that none of us know is how he has recovered from his injury. An ACL tear is a serious and it is difficult to predict how close to the 2017 version of himself he can be. Then you factor in his short period of time on campus, along with all new teammates, coaching staff and playbook and he may be too far behind Guarantano to catch up.