Bray's getting closer

Granted, it was mop-up time. Granted, Georgia had some reserve defenders in the lineup. Granted, the Bulldogs played soft coverage.

Still, what Tennessee freshman quarterback Tyler Bray accomplished in the final minutes of last Saturday's 41-14 loss at Sanford Stadium encouraged a lot of Vol fans. It encouraged offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, too.

"I thought Tyler came in and looked like he belonged and did a nice job for us there at the end of the game," Chaney said following Wednesday's practice. "It is the END of the game - it is what it is - but I thought the kid went out and performed with a calm and delivered the ball accurately, as he usually does."

Basically, Bray did what he was supposed to do: He was placed in a favorable situation and he clicked, completing 8 of 12 passes for 81 yards. Some reserve quarterbacks never click, no matter how favorable the situation might be.

"Certainly, there's nothing to be disappointed about in his effort," Chaney said. "We asked him to go into the game, and he went out there and performed for us."

Bray looked more comfortable in Game 6 vs. Georgia than he did performing similar mop-up duty in Game 1 vs. UT Martin. He completed 3 of 6 passes for 24 yards in that one with an interception. He appears to be gaining composure and confidence, so he should be even more confident the next time he takes the field.

"Any time a young player gets an opportunity to play in a big game on the road - and they have success while they're doing it - they feel better about themselves," Chaney said. "There's no question about it."

Although he benefited from enrolling last winter and participating in spring practice, Bray was a typical freshman when preseason camp began. Blessed with a 6-foot-6 frame and a rifle arm, he had a lot to offer but a lot to learn. Figuratively speaking, he's still a long way from earning a degree in Tennessee's offensive system but he has picked up some valuable course credits in recent weeks.

Chaney noted that the young QB's greatest strides to date have been in "familiarity within the offense," adding: "He understands when you call a play what it is right now. It takes him awhile, though. That's just the way it is for these kids, though. It's a whole new system, and it takes awhile for them to learn."

Because he must read the defense and know what every player on the offense is doing, learning a new system is an especially complicated and time-consuming process for a quarterback.

"That's usually the case with freshmen," Chaney said. "Some catch it quick and some take awhile. It's tough. There's a lot on those quarterbacks."

Junior Matt Simms is the Vols' No. 1 quarterback, and that isn't likely to change in the foreseeable future. Still, Bray's performance at Georgia suggests he is closer to being ready for meaningful snaps should Simms suffer an injury.

"I think any time a young man gets a chance to play and has measured success, he's more comfortable the next time he goes in," Chaney said. "It's experience. With more experience, you get better and better and better.

"So I think he'll be better the next time he goes in."


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