Searching for a spark

Read this free report from InsideTennessee.com as the Volunteers' offense searches for answers to move the football as Tennessee prepares for Vanderbilt. Be sure to come to IT for all your Tennessee athletic information.

Much like the Green Bay Packers the Vanderbilt Commodores found their spark when they found their quarterback, conveniently the two are brothers Aaron and Jordan Rodgers.

Jordan, currently a redshirt junior at Vanderbilt, has the Commodores (5-5, 2-5 SEC) barreling into Neyland Stadium with a full head of steam as the ready to square off with the Tennessee Volunteers (4-6, 0-6 SEC) who are search for their own spark, also at the quarterback position.

Before losing Tyler Bray to injury (thumb) during week five in the Vols 20-12 loss at Georgia, the Volunteers were an offensive juggernaut, especially in the passing game.

Bray had thrown for 1579 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Since that injury, Tennessee has generated just 871 yards , one touchdown and six interceptions through the air.

The frustrations have been mounting for weeks even for some of the more optimistic players featured in Jim Chaney's offense.

"We are struggling," Chaney said Wednesday. "I think you have a bunch of young men that are looking for someone to make a play as opposed to going out and making that play. I feel the pressure also of trying to make the perfect play call to be able to score points."

Senior tailback Tauren Poole admitted to some very rare frustration following Tuesday's workout in preparation for the Vols game with Vandy, but Chaney understands where the senior is coming from.

"It is difficult to not share that frustration that our whole offense has right now," Chaney said. "We are all in this together and we talk about it. It is just a matter of going out, executing and continuing to believe in ourselves and make plays.

"It doesn't surprise me that any of our guys are frustrated. It is a hard time. College football teaches us lessons in hard times and we have to continue to fight."

The Volunteers third down conversions have turned out to be a huge issue since the loss of Bray moving the chains only 22 of 73 times without their sophomore stud. Before the loss of Bray things were a bit easier on third down converting 40 of 71 attempts.

However, with the return of Bray to practice this week Chaney is hoping the Volunteers will find their stride once again.

"I think you always want a little burst and if Tyler is able to play I think he gives you that," Chaney said. "I do believe (more energy with Bray in the game). The young man has been out there, played and had a lot of success. I think that does a lot of a football team."

On the other hand, while Bray can provide a spark if he is able to go the issue is still in doubt as to whether he will be able to overcome the broken thumb injury in time to make the start Saturday night.

"I think he has a lot of rust on him," Chaney said. "There are times where he looks O.K. and there are time when he looks really rusty. You worry about those things. I don't know what the rest of the week is going to add up to. It is an iffy situation as we approach each day right now."

With the injury to Bray's thumb the sophomore will not be able to take snaps from under center, but the Volunteers will shift to a pistol set in order to get the ball back to the quarterback more gracefully.

"Limited — I think that is the best way to describe my experience with the pistol offense," Chaney said. "I think that is what you do, you find a way as coaches, if Tyler has to play in the ball game then we have to do some of that stuff. That is the reality of what we are doing. I don't think that it affects you one bit schematically."

The Volunteers have a few more days to nail down the starter, but at this point it looks like it is all about Tyler Bray as the Vols fight for a spot in a bowl game with one more loss meaning the end for a bowl bid.

Watch as Derek Dooley addresses the media following Wednesday's indoor practice:


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