The status of Tennessee football hasn't changed drastically from one spring to the next. But its ranking at the most important position has.
That tells you something about the SEC as well as the Vols.
Uncertainty at quarterback was the prevailing theme of coach Derek Dooley's first spring with the Vols. When this spring ends with Saturday's Orange and White Game, they have at least achieved stability at the position.
The significance of that is magnified by what's going on elsewhere in the league.
It's not just a matter of experience. Bray showed great potential when he replaced Simms as the starter for the last third of the season. Despite starting just five games, he passed for 18 touchdowns as a true freshman. Only six conference quarterbacks threw more touchdown passes.
Although Simms lost the starting job to Bray, he proved his worth in clutch situations. He beat UAB with a perfectly thrown touchdown pass in overtime and demonstrated his poise in leading a fourth-quarter touchdown drive against LSU, which eventually pulled out a last-second victory.
Neither Bray nor Simms had played in an SEC game before last season. Their combination of experience and potential points to continued progress.
Other conference teams can't be as confident about improvement.
Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Kentucky all will be breaking in new quarterbacks this fall. And South Carolina could be, depending on the status of returning starter Stephen Garcia, who was suspended indefinitely this spring.
Garcia is the most experienced quarterback in the league. He also might be the least reliable, based on his less than saintly off-the-field history.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Garcia, Georgia qualifies as the only team in the SEC East better set at quarterback than Tennessee.
After excelling last season as a redshirt freshman, Georgia's Aaron Murray could emerge as the league's top quarterback. What other quarterback in the East would you take over UT's Bray?
Florida's John Brantley is coming off a dreadful season, his first as a starter. The pro-style offense implemented by new coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis might be a better fit for Brantley's skills. But his 4-for-14 passing performance in Florida's spring game was hardly assuring. Moreover, Florida's receiving corps remains questionable at best.
Vanderbilt's Larry Smith returns for his third season as a starter, a staggering fact when you consider his career pass-completion percentage is under 48 percent. Kentucky will count on Morgan Newton, who didn't dazzle anyone with his passing two years ago when he started eight games in place of an injured Mike Hartline. If Garcia isn't reinstated, South Carolina will turn to Connor Shaw, who played in eight games last season as a backup.
The West is even less impressive.
LSU returning starter Jordan Jefferson has yet to prove himself as a consistently effective passer, as evidenced by his 4-for-14 performance in the spring game. Mississippi State's Chris Relf is a powerful runner but remains a work in progress as a passer. Auburn hasn't named its next starter, but you know whoever the starter is won't top Cam Newton's Heisman act.
Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas also will have new starting quarterbacks. There's more certainty at Arkansas, where Tyler Wilson acquitted himself well last season as Ryan Mallett's backup.
Wilson has a couple of things going for him aside from his passing accuracy. Most quarterbacks flourish under coach Bobby Petrino, and Arkansas has the best set of receivers in the SEC. So it wouldn't be shocking if Wilson went from backup to All-SEC.
And Bray might not be far behind.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns