QB starting role becomes three-man race

What was first thought to be a sure two-man race for the Tennessee quarterback position now appears to be a three-man contest. The Tennessee coaching staff decided to mix things up a bit, moving new junior college transfer Matt Simms to get more reps with the first team. Simms isn't the only QB on the move, go "Inside" to find out the latest on the situation.

What appeared to be an obvious shift in the quarterback race during the first 30 minutes of practice Tuesday afternoon was confirmed afterwards during the post practice interviews with Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley.

InsideTennessee's Chris Price watched the early part of Tuesday's practice that the media are allowed to watch. He thought he sensed and saw a shift in the practice reps, and apparently he was right in his early analysis.

"You could tell something was different today," Price said after practice. "During the early drills, Simms was throwing a lot more with the first team than he had in previous practices. Tyler (Bray) also moved up and was paired with Simms in drills, Nick was paired with Nick Lamaison, something was definitely different about practice before we had to leave."

Apparently, the quarterbacks found about the shift in Monday team meetings.

"They told us they were going to switch things up a little yesterday during our quarterback meeting," Matt Simms told the media after practice. "It's great, I'm very excited about the opportunity. It's going to be a dogfight there is no doubt about it, but it's good to know that my hard work is paying off."

Dooley also explained the move.

"We as a staff decided to do an early evaluation of the process and the quarterback race," Dooley said. "After being halfway through spring, it's something that we have done before. We are going to give Matt some more reps with the first team, limit Nick's reps some and Tyler Bray has shown a lot of improvement and will get some more looks with the second team and possibly some with the first team."

Senior Nick Stephens was visibly disappointed after last Thursday's scrimmage, where he passed for less than 10 yards on the day.

Apparently after that performance and the previous performances of the two newcomers, the Vols coaching staff thought it was time to mix things up a little.

"Both Matt and Tyler have shown marked improvement," Dooley said. "We thought it was time to mix things up a little and give those guys a chance to play with some of the older guys."

One of those older wide receivers Gerald Jones was outspoken about his thoughts on the quarterback race. When asked when he thought the race would be decided, he surprised those who were listening.

"It could be decided as early as this Saturday's scrimmage," Jones said. "Matt brings a lot of excitement to the position. I love the enthusiasm he brings to the huddle and field. Nick is more laidback. Matt has a really strong arm and it's evident that he has been coming on strong."

Simms was pleased and all smiles about the praise and promotion he received this week, but he isn't about to declare the position his.

"Tyler is just 17 years old and is just learning the offense like I am," Simms said. "He is very talented and is coming on strong. Nick has a lot of experience. This race is far from over. I'm pleased with my performance so far, but I'm going to continue to work hard and earn everyone's respect."

It's apparent he is earning that respect, and now it's time for Vol Nation not to be so surprised about who will be under center come September.

But a lot can happen between now and then, just as a lot has happened the last couple of weeks of spring football under Coach Dooley.

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