Tyler Bray says he's ready to play, but coaches will ultimately make decision

But coaches will make the final decision

But coaches will make the final decision

By Andrew Gribble

gribblea@knoxnews.com

If Tyler Bray had it his way, he wouldn't have been throwing passes to Justin Hunter three hours before Tennessee kicked off against Arkansas last week.

The sophomore quarterback would have been throwing passes to Da'Rick Rogers, Mychal Rivera and the rest of the healthy Vols. In Bray's mind, he was ready to go right then and there.

That's why Bray didn't hesitate Wednesday when asked if he was ready to play Saturday (TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.) against Vanderbilt (5-5, 2-5 SEC).

"I don't like watching the game. I didn't pay for a ticket," Bray said in his first interview since breaking his thumb in early October.

The final decision, though, won't be up to him. He's proved more than once that his medical opinion can't be trusted.

"The first week he came out there with the cast on he was like just 'Cut it off and let me go out there and try,' " quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said. "He has a lot of energy and he wants to play."

Coach Derek Dooley stuck with the "questionable" tag he labeled Bray with on Monday, and he saw nothing — either positive or negative — to sway him to change that after Wednesday's practice. It's a decision, Dooley said, he's willing to wait making until a few hours before Saturday's game, which UT (4-6, 0-6) must win if it hopes to qualify for a post-season bowl.

"We limited his reps a little bit, especially early in practice so he could kind of manage it through the rest of the deal," Dooley said. "We'll see. We just have to take it day-to-day, no real difference from yesterday."

The Vols are banking on Bray being as close as possible to the same as he was early in the season, when he was completing better than 65 percent of his passes for 1,459 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

They're banking on some differences, too.

Since the very first practice following the injury, Bray has been an ever-present fixture around the

Vols. Before he was casually throwing passes, he was rebounding balls from receivers, one-handed, and relaying them to his two replacements, Matt Simms and Justin Worley. When the cameras and reporters went away, Bray would rotate from station to station — even on the defensive side of the field — with either Dooley, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney or Hinshaw to get a better understanding of the game.

Bray said it was initially tough not to feel sorry for himself, but that quickly changed once he became just as busy as he was when he was healthy.

"Toward the end of it I was more about the team, trying to get them to where they needed to be," Bray said. "You realize how much football really means, too.

"You kind of take it for granted when you've got to come out and practice every day. When that's taken away from you, you kind of see things differently."

Hinshaw said he's already noticed that different outlook.

"He's come out with a lot of confidence understanding the defense and understanding what's going on," Hinshaw said. "He's very focused on what he needs to do this week."

Numerous players Tuesday and coaches Wednesday said Bray's presence, alone, has lifted some spirits on a team that has averaged fewer than six points per game in the SEC games he's missed. When prompted about his impact on the positive vibes, Bray cracked a joke — "I wouldn't say so much me. The orange dog that's rolling around, that's definitely the reason." — and he also laughed off questions about potentially playing with a glove on his throwing hand, saying he's been "messing around with them" since Pop Warner football.

It was similar to the sense of humor he provided in his periodic Twitter updates, the ones that would notify his thousands of followers that he was "rehabbing" by using his thumb to play video games.

There was so much more to it than that, of course, but Bray doesn't tip his hand easily.

"There's some things that he has to continue to get better at this week on Thursday and Friday from a mental aspect as well as a physical," Hinshaw said. "He's working hard. He has a great attitude and he's out there doing a good job."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 32

Bogytrain writes:

If you're willing to burn a red-shirt because players don't stick around for 4 years.... then you play your star if he's capable to go. This seems a no-brainer coaching decision to me.

tn_rockytop writes:

in response to Bogytrain:

If you're willing to burn a red-shirt because players don't stick around for 4 years.... then you play your star if he's capable to go. This seems a no-brainer coaching decision to me.

he is going to play they are just doing what teams do he is probable

RickyVols writes:

Bray is a special player. He will save Dooley's job this year and next. Go Vols.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

He'll play. In these hard economic times, Dooley likes being employed. He doesn't want to lose his job that fast. That is unless he has a golden parachute too.

EHSvols23 writes:

At this point in the season, there is only ONE answer to this question. Bray plays, Bray starts. I have truly and honestly supported Dooley and this coaching staff, but I could not justify or rationalize any other player starting at QB. If he reinjures it, I don't get the impression he's going to get mad and transfer. The comments I have read would lead me to believe he would want to leave if they didn't at least let him go out and play. He understands how big these last two games. He wants to play, his teammates want him to play.

GONAVY writes:

You gotta love Dooley playing with the press and creating all this pregame drama about Bray. And the media is eating it up. The young man could've played against Arkansas! He will start against VU. Unless injured or totally inaffective, Worley and Simms should just buy a ticket for admission.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Cinn.

orange_eVOLution writes:

We need Bray and a win against Vandy.

GO VOLS!!

Bigger_Al writes:

Bray said, "I will play". He went on to describe the first 10 scripted plays that the Vols will start the game with on Saturday.

hillsborovol writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree with everything you said, except your last sentence needs a period after the word "much" and just delete the rest of the sentence.

Southland writes:

in response to hillsborovol:

I agree with everything you said, except your last sentence needs a period after the word "much" and just delete the rest of the sentence.

good job

born2ride writes:

Bray plays but will not take snaps under center because of his injury. He will be in the shotgun and throwing all game.

We can't run the ball anyway.

flatrock writes:

This game will be decided by the U.T. kicker and punter. If those 2 don't perform up to SEC standards, it will not matter who plays QB for the Vols. With a passing attack that features only 1 playmaker and a sub-par run blocking line, the Vol offense simply cannot be hamstrung by another poor effort by the 2 kickers. It is time they grow some gonads and perform up to their potential.

Voluvr writes:

If any of you guys are in Middle Tennessee there's a facebook site "Occupy Orange Radio" complaining about the lack of positive sports talk in the mid state.

Don't worry fans Vandy is going down. We're not great but were better than Oil of Olan University.

VOLet_parking writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What is Cincy ranked?

VOLet_parking writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I am aware Cincy has a winning record, I just didn't get the memo we were bragging about wins against unranked teams nowadays.

VOLet_parking writes:

Montana has a winning record too. You forgot that one.

Orange_Pants_Buy_One_Get_One_Free writes:

in response to CroatianVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Here's something even funnier:

Brantley and The Gators 33
ut 23

SEVEN in a row.

Now THAT is hilarious.

Orange_Pants_Buy_One_Get_One_Free writes:

in response to VOLet_parking:

What is Cincy ranked?

VOLet_parking writes:

It was sarcasm intended to show that they were not ranked, thus proving a non-impressive win.

Sir_Spanky writes:

in response to CroatianVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Decent chance FSU will lay loss #6 on 'em. Starting to look like a basketball school.

OrangePride writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Your last statement is correct....the Vol problems this year go well beyond just one player. In particular, we need some dominant defensive linemen and another fast, disruptive linebacker as starts. The other part of your statement about Bray's value is beyond dopey. Anyone with even a shred of ability to evaluate performance knows this kid has a special set of abilities. But here is something we do ALL know. If YOU left tomorrow, it wouldn't hurt and be something we would all give thanks for in this Thanksgiving season!

bkgunter writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He left for five weeks and the drop-off was monumental. Wake up.

navarrebeachvol writes:

in response to Orange_Pants_Buy_One_Get_One_Free:

Here's something even funnier:

Brantley and The Gators 33
ut 23

SEVEN in a row.

Now THAT is hilarious.

not quite as funny as that picture of your mother with the dwarf....

AtopTheHill06 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bray won his teammates over last year, and if you had been reading player quotes lately you would know that Bray has HIS teams full support. Tenn averaged over 42 pts a game in the first 2 games with Bray, Hunter, and Rogers. Without Hunter that average dropped to about 26 pts per game, and since Bray went down we average about 7 pts per game. So, Bray coming back has a huge impact. Please review the facts before making a comment.

navarrebeachvol writes:

in response to VOLet_parking:

It was sarcasm intended to show that they were not ranked, thus proving a non-impressive win.

Cincy was ranked #23 (with one loss to UT) last week before losing 21-24 to West Virginia. Moron. Do you Gattas do any research or just pop off at the mouth...never mind, we know the answer...

Chattmatt123 writes:

Tyler Bray will play and start in the NFL if he stays healthy.He is the best player to play the postion since Peyton Manning,except he has no Jamal Lewis to hand the ball off to and Chad Clifton to protect his blind side.Tyler Bray is one of the few good things Lane Kiffin did for the Vols.This kid and Hunter are legit 1st round picks if they progress and get healthy.The reason Bray has not beat any great teams is because the overall talent is down but Bray is a special player.Remember Vols fans there is no Al wilsons, Lenord,Shaun Ellis or Deon Grants on d.I hope Dooley can get those type of players.He needs to get some d-lineman.

VOLet_parking writes:

in response to navarrebeachvol:

Cincy was ranked #23 (with one loss to UT) last week before losing 21-24 to West Virginia. Moron. Do you Gattas do any research or just pop off at the mouth...never mind, we know the answer...

So by being ranked last week and using the transitive property, Dooley has now won a game against a top 25 team. Let's flash back to when we played Georgia who by everyone's evaluation at that time was a "bad team." After that loss everyone was miserable because we felt as though we lost to an inferior team. Now UGA is top 15 and the same people that claimed it was a terrible loss at the beginning of the season are now claiming it as a moral victory because, hey, UGA is a top 15 team. When we lost to Florida, it was ok because they were a top 20 team, with "loads" of talent. Now Florida is terrible, but I don't see too many people complaining about that loss. Same applies to Cincy. Just because they happened to get ranked for a week doesn't make them world beaters. Why celebrate beating Cincy?

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

in response to VOLet_parking:

So by being ranked last week and using the transitive property, Dooley has now won a game against a top 25 team. Let's flash back to when we played Georgia who by everyone's evaluation at that time was a "bad team." After that loss everyone was miserable because we felt as though we lost to an inferior team. Now UGA is top 15 and the same people that claimed it was a terrible loss at the beginning of the season are now claiming it as a moral victory because, hey, UGA is a top 15 team. When we lost to Florida, it was ok because they were a top 20 team, with "loads" of talent. Now Florida is terrible, but I don't see too many people complaining about that loss. Same applies to Cincy. Just because they happened to get ranked for a week doesn't make them world beaters. Why celebrate beating Cincy?

Not saying to celebrate but Cincy beat they NC State (who shut out the Tar Heels), Louisville, South FL (who beat ND), and Pitt. If not for UT, Cincy would be in the top 15. The win over UC was a very solid win when the team was whole with Bray - the subject of the article.

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He's the MVP of the team and an NFL talent Bodeane. Don't give up your day job!

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to Tau_of_Tennessee:

Not saying to celebrate but Cincy beat they NC State (who shut out the Tar Heels), Louisville, South FL (who beat ND), and Pitt. If not for UT, Cincy would be in the top 15. The win over UC was a very solid win when the team was whole with Bray - the subject of the article.

That's right. Cincy beat the hell out of NC State right after we beat them. Imagine playing Cincy without a healthy Bray, Hunter, and Rogers. News Flash to all you guys -we would not have won that one.

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to AtopTheHill06:

Bray won his teammates over last year, and if you had been reading player quotes lately you would know that Bray has HIS teams full support. Tenn averaged over 42 pts a game in the first 2 games with Bray, Hunter, and Rogers. Without Hunter that average dropped to about 26 pts per game, and since Bray went down we average about 7 pts per game. So, Bray coming back has a huge impact. Please review the facts before making a comment.

Atop - you can't fix stupid!

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