When you're a quarterback who has never played above the high school level, getting to participate in spring practice at your chosen college can be summed up in one word - invaluable.

At least, that's the word Tennessee quarterback coach Darin Hinshaw chose when asked what this spring is meaning for Vol freshman Tyler Bray.

"It's huge," the UT aide said. "It's huge that Tyler goes through this. He should be in high school right now. For a kid that should be in high school right now to come out here and get 15 days and practice in is invaluable - to be able to get 15 days to learn the offense, to function and do those things. Tyler's getting better and better every day."

Although he has a lot to learn, Bray brings a lot to the table. He passed for 3,321 yards and 41 touchdowns last fall as a senior at Kingsburg (Calif.) High School. He already has impressed his position coach with his accuracy.

"He's done a great job with his target," Hinshaw said. "He throws the ball on target. That means he's got a fundamental motion of throwing the ball and putting it where it's catchable all the time, and that's good."

Because Bray played in a shotgun offense at the high school level, his development as a dropback passer is still in its infancy.

"He has to work on being able to drop back and do some things under center that he hadn't done in high school," Hinshaw said, "but he's getting better and better at that every day. We've just got to keep coaching him, keep getting him better to be able to function underneath center. He's doing a great job."

Bray isn't the only newcomer battling for Tennessee's quarterback job this spring. Matt Simms also is new to The Hill, although he played a little at Louisville in 2008 before starring at El Camino (Calif.) Community College in 2009.

"He hasn't been in the system but he does have experience and he's older," Hinshaw said of Simms. "He's got a good background but he's got a learning curve just like anybody else."

Like Bray, Simms spends a lot of time each week trying to assimilate the glut of information being thrown at him this spring.

"When you come out, you've got to be able to install and mentally go through that," Hinshaw said. "You've got to do homework, constantly work at it outside of football, with our meetings and study, and he's doing a good job with that. He's spending extra time - they all are - and getting better every single day."

Bray and Simms reportedly are doing well in drill work. So are returning QBs Nick Stephens and Nick Lamaison. The first game-type test comes Thursday, when the Vols hold their first scrimmage.

"It's going to be nice to see them compete and be able to move the ball, try and score," Hinshaw said. "We'll get out of situations and see them play the game. That's what it comes down to: Being able to play the game and function."

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