The best teacher

Last August Tennessee didn't have a quarterback on its roster who had taken a snap in a Southeastern Conference game. This August the Vols boast two quarterbacks who have started SEC games.

Obviously, having some experience at the game's most sensitive position is a major plus as the Vols prepare for the 2011 season.

"It's always good ... better than going in with none," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney noted. "It's awesome to have some stability in that (quarterback meeting) room."

Quarterback coach Darin Hinshaw echoes those sentiments.

"Last year not one quarterback had taken a snap in the SEC, so we're a lot further ahead with the quarterbacks than we were last year," he said. "We're doing a lot more with the offense in terms of what Coach Chaney wants to get done.

"We've got to continue to sync our minds into the offensive scheme and continue to get in the best play possible and continue to do better with our checks, understanding defenses and mastering the offense."

Junior college transfer Matt Simms started the first eight games last fall but was pulled when the Vols stumbled to a 2-6 record. Freshman Tyler Bray went 4-1 as the starter in the final five games and appears to be building on that late-season success.

"He's done a good job working on his footwork," Hinshaw said. "He hasn't worked as hard as I want him to in understanding the defense and mastering the offense but it's a lot better than where it's been.

"His communication with Coach Chaney, Coach Dooley and myself is better. We can talk about a lot more things instead of having to teach. We can talk about different coverages and different situations. It's a lot faster (discussion) now, whereas before it was a slower transition. That's good, and that's what time has done up to this point."

Chaney also sees considerable progress in Bray's knowledge and understanding of the Vol offense.

"Tyler is asking a lot better questions," the coordinator said. "I think he's had a good summer throwing the football and trying to learn as a quarterback. I'm impressed with that part of it. Right now I'm happy with his development."

Chaney also is happy that Simms, now a senior backup, continues to battle for the starting job, despite being No. 2 on the depth chart.

"Matt's doing well," Chaney said. "He's competing very hard, pushing on Tyler every day. I'm real pleased with him."

Apparently, Simms' determination to try and reclaim the job is keeping Bray on his toes.

"It's still always a battle," the sophomore QB said. "You can lose your spot at any time. I just try to go out there and continue what we did at the end of the season last year."


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