PULLMAN – Jarrett Guarantano’s getting the hang of the playbook, asking the right questions and progressively growing into a leadership role at Washington State – something he acknowledges will take time and more importantly trust.
But there’s still a few things the New Jersey native-turned Knoxville, Tennessee, resident-turned Pullman adoptee is adjusting to as he finds his footing on the West Coast.
Quite literally in some cases.
“Initial thoughts, lot of hills,” Guarantano recently said after WSU’s first spring scrimmage. “I’m from New Jersey, so I’m like 10 minutes from New York City. So, you go from that, then I went to my other school, that was kind of in the country area so a lot of land, then I came here and a lot of hills. But I’ve enjoyed it, I really like this campus, the guys make it a lot more fun around here honestly, but Pullman has been very good to me so far.”
Guarantano’s navigating the literal hills of Pullman and also trying to climb a figurative one as one of three players thought to have a chance at claiming WSU’s starting quarterback job. The Tennessee bounce-back who was once regarded as the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat QB coming out of New Jersey’s Bergen Catholic before an inconsistent tenure with the Volunteers is sharing first-team practice reps with redshirt junior Cammon Cooper, while returning starter Jayden de Laura – still serving his suspension from an offseason DUI arrest – waits his turn to get back on the field.
Much of Guarantano’s transition to the Palouse has been centered around learning an offense that derives from the West Coast and building chemistry with teammates who grew up there. Guarantano’s been accepted by teammates and embraced by coaches, but the QB might also warn his transition hasn’t been as easy as it looks.
“You go to a completely different place, you go across the country and the guys are different in locker rooms,” Guarantano said. “I mean, I’m an East Coast guy and when I come to the West Coast, there’s a lot of guys from the west side of America, so to be honest it was a little weird. I came in with the idea that I kind of wanted to make relationships first and then over time, I’ll know these guys better and I’ll kind of resume that leadership role.”
None of the four playbooks Guarantano had to master at Tennessee resemble the one he’s learning now, but WSU coach Nick Rolovich believes a crash course in the run-and-shoot will be accelerated by Guarantano’s experience running a variety of offensive systems.
“Very mature kid as far as diving into the offense,” Rolovich said. “I think he’d been through a bunch of change offensively in his past, even prior to college. I think he had a real good base of offensive schematics. He’s able to translate a lot of the things we do and the things he’s done. He doesn’t fight it. I think there’s parts of this offense that are intriguing to him because it is a little bit different than anything he’s ever done.”
Guarantano calls the run-and-shoot “a little tricky,” but he’s established an instant connection with QBs coach Craig Stutzmann – the first coach to reach out when Guarantano was in the transfer portal – and wide receiver Renard Bell commended the graduate transfer on his willingness to ask questions when there’s a concept he’s not familiar with.
“He does a great job of managing his throws and trying to make the right read,” Bell said. “If he doesn’t, he asks questions.”
It didn’t hurt that two WSU players, running back Max Borghi and center Brian Greene, connected with Guarantano immediately after he announced his commitment to the Cougars, helping the QB feel at ease with his choice.
“Just hearing from those guys, those guys are really team captains, team leaders, it kind of helped with the transition a little bit,” he said. “This is an older team, too, so there’s not too big of an age gap between myself and those guys, but it was very nice to have those guys hit me up instantly as soon as I decided to commit here.”
Rolovich also praised Guarantano for his maturity, telling reporters Tuesday, “I’ve got no complaints about his study habits, comprehension, him taking it to the field. I really like what he becomes on the field, as far as people, other teammates gravitating towards him. I think he’s got some maturity and been through a lot at his last school, so not much rattles him which is a positive.”
Guarantano’s intangibles should be a major advantage when it comes to WSU’s QB race and he may also have the most impressive physical tools of anybody in the position group. In Saturday’s scrimmage, he completed all eight pass attempts and was the only signal-caller without an interception. Tuesday afternoon during WSU’s end-of-practice team period, Guarantano fed more missiles into the chests of Cougars wideouts who’ve also taken well to the QB’s arrival.
“You can tell that he’s been through this process before and just wanting to learn and just wanting to do better. I like him, he can throw the ball, too,” Bell said. “He throws a pretty good ball, so I like everything he’s been doing so far. Just getting used to a new system now that he’s here. But my first impression of him, he’s going to be nice. He’s going to be pretty good.”