The first snap in practice had Derek Dooley thinking about alternatives.
After the Tennessee coach watched Tyler Bray take a couple more, there was no question he'd need another approach.
The pain in the sophomore quarterback's right thumb isn't gone yet, and it only took a broken handful of exchanges under center for the Vols to begin exploring a way to limit the discomfort and get Bray the football. The shotgun was an easy answer for the Vols in the passing game, and as they prepare for a critical conference date with Vanderbilt on Saturday (TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.) at Neyland Stadium, it also appears to be the likely solution on the ground as they tinker with a Pistol formation.
"It was him putting his hand under, he took the first snap and (grimaced)," Dooley said after practice on Wednesday. "Forget it, back up, that's the end of that. Think about it, the guy has got a broken thumb, so we're going to start every play by doing this — POW! Right? That's real intelligent.
"I thought to myself, how stupid was I to even say, 'All right, let's take a snap.' Should have thought about that before we even took the first snap."
Since then, Bray's work during open portion of workouts has come almost exclusively in the shotgun, with the added wrinkle that running backs are lined up behind him as they would traditionally with him under center.
That adjustment limits the shock on Bray's thumb, and other than slight modifications with the handoff and footwork, there are no significant differences to be made. And since the Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) can run their offense in that package without sweeping changes, that tweak might help make the difference in getting Bray back to take on the Commodores (5-5, 2-5).
"Some of the mesh, you've got to work on the ball-handling, that's different," Dooley said. "But with our running game, when you get in the Pistol, there's a Pistol offense and then there's getting into a Pistol formation. Alabama runs the Pistol formation but it's really a traditional, pro-style offense. Nevada runs the Pistol offense, which is veer-option and all the other stuff.
"It's really just a formation, you're just backing the guy up to eliminate (the snap) and a couple of steps. It's just a shotgun snap for him. You're talking about a half-yard difference."
Whether that might help the tailbacks pick up more yardage going the other direction remains to be seen.
But it should benefit Bray, and that's the key right now for UT.
"That's what you do, you find a way," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "As coaches, you find a way. If Tyler has to play in the ballgame, then we have to do some of that stuff, and that's just the reality of what we're dealing with.
"I don't believe it restricts you one bit on what you can do schematically. That's just what you have to do if he ends up being able to play in the ballgame."
Air Jordan, Ground Jordan: With his arm, Jordan Rodgers is completing almost 54 percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns.
With his legs, the junior quarterback rushed for 211 yards and four more scores.
Since becoming the starter for Vanderbilt four games ago, Rodgers also has two wins to his credit and has given UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox plenty to think about this week.
"He moves the chains, and he does it in a lot of different ways," Wilcox said. "He'll throw it. He'll run it. He'll scramble. He just makes plays and when it's third-and-6, he finds a way to get a first down. That's probably the best way to describe him, so he's done an excellent job.
"Schematically, they do a lot of different things. He gives you issues because of the runs and those types of things."
Bumps And Bruises: Starting right guard Zach Fulton was limited during the open portion of practice with a brace on his left arm protecting a minor elbow injury. JerQuari Schofield took first-team reps in his place, but Fulton is expected to play against Vanderbilt.
Wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers again practiced with a brace on his left knee.
Safety Prentiss Waggner, running back Marlin Lane and linebackers Raiques Crump and Herman Lathers all practiced in green, non-contact jerseys.