Quick-thinking QB

Choosing a No. 1 quarterback isn't simply a matter of identifying who does things better. Who does things quicker is a factor, as well.

That's one reason junior Matt Simms continues to lead freshman Tyler Bray in the competition for supremacy at Tennessee's most sensitive position.

Simms gets the team in and out of the huddle quicker. He reads the defense quicker before the snap and he reacts quicker after the snap. Bray is still developing those skills.

"He's got to be able to tell the other 10 guys the play, be able to get them to the line of scrimmage, make sure he's looking at the play clock and identify the defense," Quarterbacks Coach Darin Hinshaw said. "All of those things that he's doing, we've got to speed it up. He's getting it but in the next three weeks we've got to get better."

Freshmen often admit difficulty adjusting to "the speed of the college game." A perfect illustration occurred in last Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, when a split-second delay cost Bray a completion.

"There was a hot (blitzing) situation; he was about a half-second slow on getting the ball to (tight end Luke) Stocker, and the linebacker knocked the ball loose," Hinshaw recalled. "That's the thing we've got to get better at. When we've got a 'backer coming we've got to get the ball out."

If passing stats were the determining factor, Bray would be Tennessee's No. 1 QB. He completed 27 of 50 attempts for 399 yards in the first two preseason scrimmages. Simms completed 20 of 43 for 315 yards but has shown a better knack for managing the Vol attack.

"In the administration of quarterback, Matt is doing a really good job," Hinshaw said. "I'm really proud of him. He worked really hard this summer and really made it a passion of his - to do that well."

Both Simms and Bray understand the basics of quarterback play. But Simms, who spent a year at Louisville and one at junior college before enrolling at UT, has a little better grasp of the position's intricacies.

"That's advanced ball right there," Hinshaw said. "That's the kind of things we've got to keep getting better at."

If Bray feels a bit overwhelmed by "advanced ball," Hinshaw can relate. He recalls being a freshman quarterback at Central Florida in 1991.

"I know what Tyler's going through," the Vol aide said. "Some things come with reps, and that's what you need. When you first start off, the game doesn't slow down. When someone blitzes, it seems like there's 50 guys blitzing instead of just two."

Bray has come a long way since spring practice. He's doing the right thing most of the time. He just needs to do the right thing FASTER.

As Hinshaw put it: "It's important to make the decisions quicker, put the ball where it needs to be, get the ball to the playmakers, go through our progression, understand where the alerts are, understand the checks and the runs.

"It's coming with Matt. With Tyler, it's better than it was in the spring but it needs to be better. We've got to keep bringing him along."

In addition to fine-tuning Simms and Bray, the coach is working hard to get freshman Nash Nance ready to be the No. 3 QB this fall.

"Nash is coming along good," Hinshaw said. "He's made progress, too. We haven't put him into a whole lot of situations where he could fail but we're getting him ready - getting a package together for him in case something should happen."

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