Sitting (in the pocket) pretty

Bray has a knack of not getting hit while quarterbacking Vols

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray throws a pass against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010. UT lost the game 38-24, giving them a 2-6 record.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray throws a pass against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010. UT lost the game 38-24, giving them a 2-6 record.

There’s no real way to prepare for that first hit.

Tyler Bray was relatively sheltered in high school, and he’s almost completely protected in practice and scrimmages at Tennessee thanks to a green, non-contact jersey.

There’s also the small matter of a body that doesn’t look like it’s built for the violent nature of life under center in the SEC, but ready or not, when the shots started coming the true freshman didn’t blink. In fact, if anything heading into Bray’s third game leading the offense on Saturday at Vanderbilt (TV: CSS, 7:30 p.m.), he seems to be inviting some contact.

“I just kind of laughed at the guy,” Bray said thinking back to his first big hit. “He hit me and started talking trash, and I was like, ‘Keep coming, keep hitting me. It’s fine.’

“I didn’t get hit much in high school, but coming here I knew I was going to get hit. I just knew I couldn’t let it affect me, so I just try not to let it.”

Judging by his numbers over the last 10 quarters since UT (4-6, 1-5 SEC) threw him into the fire after halftime against South Carolina’s tenacious pass rush, the physical toll hasn’t slowed him down any.

Since throwing an interception on his first attempt, he hasn’t tossed another in the last 81 attempts, he’s piled up 10 touchdowns, more than 800 yards passing and has only a little soreness to show for it behind a line that has had its protection issues this season. And though Bray didn’t face all that much pressure against Memphis, sandwiched around that blowout were two of the hardest-hitting defenses in the SEC — though neither had any real success rattling him in the pocket.

“The thing that you never know is how does he handle when he gets hit — hard and often,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “It’s easy to stand there in practice with the green shirt on. But you never know when he’s getting banged around and they’re disguising coverages how he’s going to handle it. I was really impressed.

“I didn’t really realize in the game how hard of shots he took, and he took some. From that standpoint, that’s a good thing. He evades the rush probably a little better than you ever know in practice, too. Those two things you really never get a bead on in practice. How can he handle the hits and how can he evade the rush? He’s proven to do that in two games here, so hopefully he’ll build on it.”

Ideally Bray wouldn’t ever have to bother with becoming better suited to deal with hits in the pocket, though the combination of an inexperienced offensive line, a conference known for dominant defenses and his own growing pains holding the ball too long make that skill mandatory for survival.

The Commodores (2-8, 1-6 SEC) might not test it as much as the other teams in the league he’s already faced, but either way it doesn’t seem to bother Bray in the least. But even if he’s able to shrug off the contact and smile, the guys in charge of keeping him in one piece would prefer he not have to worry about it in the first place.

“We love to see that right there, but we take that as a personal problem,” left tackle Dallas Thomas said. “Even if he’s still tough and taking hits — that could be our fault or the routes the (receivers) are running or any other thing — we take that as a personal problem if he’s getting hit.

“No offensive lineman wants to see their quarterback get hit like that, and we’re going to keep working at it, keep getting better so we don’t give up any hits.”

Even if the Vols can’t do that all the time, Bray has shown an ability to bounce right back — no experience necessary.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 27

USNVOL writes:

Keep slinging them....Slim.

murrayvol writes:

Appreciate what Dallas Thomas had to say.

When you've got a guy back there slingin' the rock the way TB has, you want him to be in an upright posistion.

DooleyWagon22 writes:

In a few years,would it be a possibility that Bray will have a shot at the Heisman. He's putting up great #'s for a freshman.

tnsportsman writes:

Tyler 'hum that tater' big guy! Keep the offense focused and be ready to hang the commode-a-dores with at least 49 points!

No Excuses for not winning these 2 games! VOLS keep it up and play hard for 60 minutes!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

mercyseat writes:

I would love to know the real reason tyler's parents moved back to california.I read somewhere that Tyler was working hard not to get a southern accent.And that he can't find real mexican food down here.
HEY TYLER..... WHATS WRONG WITH A SOUTHERN ACCENT? Most of the west love our accent!We're lovin you Tyler,keep up the laser show you're putting on, and we will get to a bowl game.

PUL4VOLS writes:

Good grief, get off his parents moving back to CA. He's here and that's what matters. He will take shots in the future. So it is vital that he puts on some weight and beef up.
What we have seen is fantastic. Hush any Heisman talk. He has not proven anything in a full game against national contenders. But right now it is so good to like what we see in him.
Looking forward to big things ahead and a win against the Comms come late Sat. night.

RespectTradition writes:

He moves well. He evades the rush with small movements and keeps his eyes downfield. Reminds me a lot of Danny Marino, the way he does that. He also has better strength pulling free than I would have thought. I have been impressed.

Go Vols!

OrangeinCarolina2 writes:

I like the way the O line takes it personal. Proud of their QB. Sounds like this group of young men are developing into a team. Say what you will but this coaching staff has brought these guys a long way, keeping them focused on getting better and not on the results. I'm feeling pretty good about the future of UT football. GO VOLS!

ChattaVol1 writes:

Boy I sure wish we had that LSU game!

Voluvr writes:

Bray's weight is not an issue. It will come with time. It seems to be the thing to say about him, but really no big deal.

iowavol writes:

Bray at 220 would be a very formidable QB - a la Ben Rothlisberger. Love his instincts in the pocket - something that is not necessarily taught.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Tyler Slim's the man. Be good to your line. They love you

PHAT_VOL writes:

Sling'n Slim has got "IT" the things you can't coach. Just stay healthy. He's going to have some bad games, everyone does. Just don't make it one of the next two.
He moves like Dan Marino and throughs like Daryle Lamonica.
GO VOLS !!

CrankE writes:

Totally off-topic, but since KNS is really falling down on the "Where are they now?" category of former UT players/coaches, here's an update:

Dave Clawson: Head Coach, Bowling Green State University.

BGSU is 2-8 and last in the nation in rushing at 60.5 yards per game, and ~2 yards per carry.

CLAWFENSE BABY!!!!

Wonder if that would be a good fit for Fulmer? Just sayin...

Mommasboy writes:

Random question about Bray...I saw where they list him at 6-6 and 210 lbs. My friend and I have a ongoing debate about his actual weight. He looks much smaller width wise that Peyton was even though they were listed the same size their freshman year. My friend contends he is more like 6-6 190 lbs. For comparison, we sized up our other friend who is 6-6 200 lbs and has a good bit more muscle than bray...Our friend benches 225 6 times, not bad for that height and weight. There is no way bray could do that now. I know his size has nothing to do with his great on the field play...just curious what he actually weighs. I am thinking 190lbs as well. He seems to have a narrower build than peyton. Does anybody actually know?

PHAT_VOL writes:

in response to Mommasboy:

Random question about Bray...I saw where they list him at 6-6 and 210 lbs. My friend and I have a ongoing debate about his actual weight. He looks much smaller width wise that Peyton was even though they were listed the same size their freshman year. My friend contends he is more like 6-6 190 lbs. For comparison, we sized up our other friend who is 6-6 200 lbs and has a good bit more muscle than bray...Our friend benches 225 6 times, not bad for that height and weight. There is no way bray could do that now. I know his size has nothing to do with his great on the field play...just curious what he actually weighs. I am thinking 190lbs as well. He seems to have a narrower build than peyton. Does anybody actually know?

What ! Who cares what he weighs.
GO VOLS !

TnReb writes:

Can't make the game Saturday night so will have to watch on TV, however, I do not know what channel "CSS" is. I have Direct TV. Can anyone help?

UTbassdrummer writes:

I love hearing TB talk about his game. Its
always "I'm just having fun" and "its
just pass and catch", but within that non
bravado and ease comes this powerful
play and technique. Its gotta be fun to
line-up with that.

I'm anxious to see Tyler have another
stunning amount of fun this week.

TKG_VOL writes:

in response to TnReb:

Can't make the game Saturday night so will have to watch on TV, however, I do not know what channel "CSS" is. I have Direct TV. Can anyone help?

My daughter has Direct TV and shows that channel but does not have the package to get it. She called and they told her she could order the game for $39.00

AtLannaVol writes:

Auburn has "The S-CAM, but TN has "The STICK".

TnReb writes:

in response to TKG_VOL:

My daughter has Direct TV and shows that channel but does not have the package to get it. She called and they told her she could order the game for $39.00

Thanks for the info.

givehim6 writes:

in response to PUL4VOLS:

Good grief, get off his parents moving back to CA. He's here and that's what matters. He will take shots in the future. So it is vital that he puts on some weight and beef up.
What we have seen is fantastic. Hush any Heisman talk. He has not proven anything in a full game against national contenders. But right now it is so good to like what we see in him.
Looking forward to big things ahead and a win against the Comms come late Sat. night.

That is wright, one game at a time. You get to thinking to far ahead you take you eye of the prize you loose. Vandy, UK, then if were lucky a bowl, let's talk the other stuff in a few years. If I had a son going to school thousands of miles away and could afford it I'd stay with him a bit to make sure he was settled in also. Nothing more than loving there son thats all, move along nothing to see here folks.

Ayres_Hall writes:

CSS is Comcast/Charter Sports South. It's channel 27 on Comcast or 400 in HD.

Volunteer_In_Husker_Country writes:

in response to CrankE:

Totally off-topic, but since KNS is really falling down on the "Where are they now?" category of former UT players/coaches, here's an update:

Dave Clawson: Head Coach, Bowling Green State University.

BGSU is 2-8 and last in the nation in rushing at 60.5 yards per game, and ~2 yards per carry.

CLAWFENSE BABY!!!!

Wonder if that would be a good fit for Fulmer? Just sayin...

"BGSU is 2-8 and last in the nation in rushing at 60.5 yards per game, and ~2 yards per carry."

This math is impossible. If they have 60.5 yards per game, even if they ran the ball 60 times, it would still be over a yard per carry. Just sayin'.

rockytopjc22#1360044 writes:

in response to Volunteer_In_Husker_Country:

"BGSU is 2-8 and last in the nation in rushing at 60.5 yards per game, and ~2 yards per carry."

This math is impossible. If they have 60.5 yards per game, even if they ran the ball 60 times, it would still be over a yard per carry. Just sayin'.

The math could add up! Ur forgetting passing. He said 60 yards per game TOTAL OFFENCE he didnt say rushing offence! Just saying...

volonthehill writes:

There is no math here. You are reading something into his statement that isn't there. 60.5 yards rushing/game and ~ which means approximately 2 yards a carry. This implies ~30 carries a game. Geez.

dandyseniors#546965 writes:

in response to TnReb:

Can't make the game Saturday night so will have to watch on TV, however, I do not know what channel "CSS" is. I have Direct TV. Can anyone help?

Direct TV does not have CSS.

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