Tennessee QB Tyler Bray Targets Improvement

By: Kim Allen Email
By: Kim Allen Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tyler Bray feels a bit more comfortable with Tennessee's offense after spending the summer watching film and working to get in sync with the receivers.

Coach Derek Dooley is still waiting for that comfort to grow into consistent play from his sophomore quarterback, though. Bray made a few big passes and avoided throwing any interceptions in the Volunteers' first fall scrimmage on Tuesday, but he struggled to control the offensive tempo. Dooley says Bray had several delay-of-game penalties, and the offense looked more like 11 individuals than a cohesive unit.

"He made a couple of tosses to Da'Rick (Rogers) and Justin (Hunter) for a couple of touchdowns and makes a couple of big plays, but the consistency is nonexistent," Dooley said. "It's enough to drive you crazy."

Bray spent the summer on campus participating in the team-led
seven-on-seven drills, playing catch with the receivers and perfecting the handoff with James Stone as the left-handed center worked on becoming a righty.

The gangly 6-foot-6 Bray also worked out with new strength and
conditioning coach Ron McKeefery to pack on some muscle and loading up plates in the dining hall in hopes of adding some weight. He's listed on the roster as weighing 210, though he said he's only
about 202 right now.

"I heard him say he was 202 now? I'm like, `You're still little,"' senior running back Tauren Poole said. "He's gained a little bit, like 10 pounds, maybe? Tyler should be like 220, but I doubt that will ever happen. As long as he can throw the ball around, we're fine with wherever he's at."

The Kingsburg, Calif., native admits he wasn't as comfortable with the Vols' offense last season and did a bit of freestyling during his five starts at the end of the season. The film study and repetitions during the summer helped, he said.

"Last season I was going in and I kind of knew the offense but still was a little hesitant on some things," Bray said. "This year I'm not at all."

Even with the rookie struggles, Bray still managed to set team
freshman records by completing 125-of-224 passes for 1,849 yards
and 18 touchdowns and earn Southeastern Conference freshman of the week honors three out of four weeks. He became Tennessee's first quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in four games since
Peyton Manning and set a team record with 308 yards passing and
five touchdowns in a one half of play.

But there are plenty of moments he'd like to get back. The biggest was the interception he threw to North Carolina's Quan Sturdivant in the second overtime of the Music City Bowl that sealed North Carolina's 30-27 victory.

Bray can remember every detail of that play, designed to be a
play-action pass to fullback Channing Fugate. It took a while for him to get up the nerve to watch the film of it.

"I just tried to forget it," he said. "It's hard to forget that one, but you've just got to move on."

Bray will move on to even tougher opponents this season. Last year he saw his first meaningful action late in a 38-24 loss to South Carolina, the eighth game of the year.

He earned his first start against Memphis and led the Vols to win against Mississippi, Vanderbilt and Kentucky before the Music City Bowl loss.

This year, he'll be tasked with facing Florida in Gainesville on Sept. 17, the third game of the season, and will play his first meaningful snaps against Georgia, LSU, Alabama and Arkansas should
he hold on to the starter's job for the entire season.

"It's still always a battle," Bray said. "I mean you could go out and lose your spot at any time."

His primary competition at the spot will continue to be senior Matt Simms, who started the first eight games of the 2010 season. Mid-term enrollee Justin Worley could also pressure him for some
playing time.

Bray no longer will be able to rely on go-to targets Gerald Jones, Denarius Moore and Luke Stocker, who each signed with an NFL
team earlier this month. He's got talented targets in fellow sophomores Rogers and Hunter, but Dooley has bemoaned their lack of consistent play as well.

"We've got to keep working," Dooley said. "It's still early, still young. Nobody's frustrated. Nobody's down or disappointed, we've just got a lot of work to do."

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