Matt Simms officially leading again for Vols

The quarterback situation: Simms takes over from Bray; Worley takes over from Simms

On a February afternoon, Matt Simms is decked out from head to toe in Tennessee workout gear.

The senior is softly tossing the ball up to himself outside the locker room, waiting for somebody to join him so he can get in some offseason throws.

As a teammate walks through the practice facility, Simms shouts over to ask why he didn't show up to a throwing session with him the previous weekend after being sent a text message about the details. He cracked a couple jokes about it, but the message from Simms was serious and hard to misinterpret.

The Vols already had a new starter under center at that point, but Simms wasn't simply going to concede a leadership role to Tyler Bray back then. And while it took a broken thumb to open up actual playing time again for Simms against No. 1 LSU on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.) at Neyland Stadium, in some ways he's never really stopped carrying himself like a first-team quarterback for the Vols.

"No doubt, it is tough to be that kind of a leader even though you're the second-team quarterback," Simms said. "But, to be honest with you, I didn't care because this is my senior year, this is (defensive lineman) Malik Jackson's senior year, and we understand that it doesn't really matter.

"We're all a part of the same team, and obviously it's kind of an awkward situation at times, but sometimes you have to put some of that stuff aside and realize that we're all here for the same purpose. It's tough, but we've just got to deal with it."

That's nothing new for Simms with UT (3-2, 0-2 SEC), where there hasn't been much that has come easily for him or the program over the last couple seasons.

Simms won the job outright after transferring from junior college a year ago and started eight games, including a brutal stretch of conference games almost exactly like the one the Vols are in the middle of now. He nearly pulled off an enormous upset on the road against the same Tigers (6-0, 3-0) he'll face in his return to the starting lineup, but ultimately as the losses piled up, Derek Dooley looked elsewhere for a spark in the passing game.

The Vols coach found it in Bray, and it quite obviously didn't sit well with Simms when the move was made. But since publicly lashing out after getting pulled in a loss at South Carolina, Simms privately went back to work in case a second chance ever arrived and gained respect in the locker room in the process.

"Matt understands the investment it takes to be a good quarterback, and Tyler was learning that," Dooley said. "So, even though Tyler was our starter, it wasn't going to change Matt's approach to being a good quarterback. Matt knew he was one snap away from being the guy, and when you're a two, you have to prepare like you're a starter. It was good, I mean, that's why we had Matt.

"Matt was mature enough to really see (the big picture). He had bounced around, but he's here, let's stick it out and see what happens."

What the Vols saw last week in a loss to Georgia was Bray's hand whack into a defender's helmet, a ball come out poorly on the next snap and an X-ray that revealed why with a broken bone.

They also watched Simms trot back out to the huddle in a pressure situation, complete a pair of critical fourth-down conversions and finish off the only touchdown drive of the game with a short sneak into the end zone.

Now it's up to him to lead the Vols there more often, and he's been working and waiting for that chance for a while.

"I think (the backup leading) did look unusual, but it was a reflection of Matt Simms and his character," Jackson said. "He knew that even though he wasn't the No. 1 quarterback, he still had to go out there and lead these guys. He knows he's a senior, and he knows there's nothing he can do about it except go out there to work every day and just work hard, bust his (tail) every day and get better.

"You might get your opportunity, and here it is."

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

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Comments » 56

TommyJack writes:

Simms has stones.

vol49 writes:

Go Matt. Go VOLS.

VOLliven2it writes:

You go show us all what you can do even against a stacked deck. GO Matt Simms! GO BIG ORANGE!

smokey-vol writes:

I like his attitude and hopefully he will be able to lead this team over the next 4-6 weeks.

CCLC writes:

Last year I predicted that Simms would get the majority of the works against some tough teams but that Dooley would ease Bray into the line up when the UT played the lesser teams. That's smart coaching cause Bray is more talented imho and long term it benefits UT. It's ironic that Simms played against the meat grinder schedule and was benched while Bray cherry picked. Now Bray is injured(unfortunate) after enjoying a easy front schedule and Simms is back in the grinder.
just sayin'

FearTheVols1252 writes:

Simms reminds me of Crompton... doesn't quite have the talent to compete in the SEC, but you have to admire his heart and work ethic. Hope he does well this weekend... or at least well enough!

Berryfan21 writes:

I commend Matt for stepping out of the spotlight for Bray and still sticking around. Look where it got him! I have a good feeling about the game and found some great videos here http://kyoo.com/tennessee-football

givehim6 writes:

In 2010 Matt was there for the Vols during the toughest part of the season and 2011 he is back for the toughest run. He needs a Nic name, TRUE GRIT!

bigOutfan writes:

All Vol fans going to the game, get behind Mr Sims and the team, CHEER them on to VICTORY over the Tigers!!!!

Vol_in_exile writes:

I have always liked Matt Simms. He toughed out the hardest games on our schedule last year, and will face the hardest ones this year, too. Hopefully our O-line's pass blocking will continue to be as good as it has been so far this year so Simms doesn't get hammered the next couple of games as he did early last season.

FearlessFreep writes:

Thank goodness he stayed.

I would love for things to end well for this kid. He's definitely got the deck stacked against him, but he's actually in a better situation than he was last year. At least he may be able to stand upright instead of running for his life.
The question is can he make enough plays to keep UT in the tough stretch of ballgames? We'll just have to see.

RUstilltalking writes:

in response to bigOutfan:

All Vol fans going to the game, get behind Mr Sims and the team, CHEER them on to VICTORY over the Tigers!!!!

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

BJ writes:

in response to RUstilltalking

Maybe you need to go troll elsewhere. If you are a VOL FAN and can't get behind Matt after he has stuck by the stuff when he could have cut and run then you ain't a TRU VOL FAN Just sayin

utken1942 writes:

simms is a good QB, but has to get rid of the ball faster this year. He played with the big boys last year while has yet to beat a good team.. Simms can win for the Vols..Good luck Matt,beat LSU!

utken1942 writes:

Add to last post Bray has yet to beat a good team

eprahm (Inactive) writes:

Hopefully the Offensive Line will give Matt a chance to show what he can do this time. Unfortunately, last time around they were pretty pathetic.

volfan1971 writes:

Good luck, Matt! Try to get the ball out a little faster if you can. Would not depend on too much time with our line and lack of running game. So close to the upset last year, let this be the year! We can hope anyway.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Go Matt!! Just give it all you got, and everything else will fall into place..You just never know what may happen.

Smokey says he has your back,Matt..

RUstilltalking writes:

in response to BJ:

in response to RUstilltalking

Maybe you need to go troll elsewhere. If you are a VOL FAN and can't get behind Matt after he has stuck by the stuff when he could have cut and run then you ain't a TRU VOL FAN Just sayin

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ironcity writes:

in response to utken1942:

Add to last post Bray has yet to beat a good team

Its certainly not Brays fault. I would have thought the defense could have stop NC from getting 60 yards in 40 seconds last year. Bray did lead us in a victory when we were the underdog which is something Simms couldn't do. Somehow someway they team needs to be able to run the ball. Maybe it will take one big play to give the oline confidence. I am curious to see how Simms does on 3rd down. Last year with Simms (against lousy competition)we were last in the country on 3rd down efficiency. This year we were near the top. Our dee is fragile so this offense needs to spend some time on the field.

ReVolver writes:

Really admire Simms for performing as well as he did at the end of the Georgia game...those were some big-time clutch completions in an incredibly demanding situation!

Bravo for Matt's great attitude towards preparation, and bravo to the coaches for having him ready.

daporter22#1402249 writes:

Like his brother Chris, Matt will rise to the occassion.

samuelroger4 writes:

Matt Simms will be a hero this weekend...

Bigger_Al writes:

Superstitious? Here's why we are going to win:

First win vs. #1 ranked team: 1959 against LSU Tigers.
They weren't Tigers that day, they were P______.

26 years later:
Second win vs. #1 ranked team: 1985 against Auburn Tigers.
They weren't Tigers that day, they were P______.

26 years later:
Third win vs. #1 ranked team: 2011 vs. LSU Tigers?
They won't be Tigers tomorrow, they will be P______.

crutch1966 writes:

kick butt matt!

TheRealDragonSlayer writes:

in response to samuelroger4:

Matt Simms will be a hero this weekend...

I agree 100%.

volpreacher writes:

Question. Can fans take cameras into stadium?

Theo writes:

in response to volpreacher:

Question. Can fans take cameras into stadium?

Absolutely.

Theo writes:

Leadership counts for a lot. Especially in a underdog situation. Go Matt.
Matt truly makes me think of being a Vol For Life. I hope the fans appreciate him tomorrow.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Heck, just dont quit and beat Las Vegas

DannyVol writes:

Good, tough kid. I'm glad he's getting a shot against the same teams that would have benched almost anyone given the circumstances. Go Matt, Go Vols!

richvol writes:

Would'nt it be great if Matt finished what he started last year in Baton Rouge.I have a feeling that Tennessee wil be ready to play Saturday.

pingkr62 writes:

I hope Matt can stay healthy. If he goes down, we are screwed. I'm not taking anything away from Justin Worley, but what do we have behind him? J.S.

nepperso#220348 writes:

Simms is tough, and if he ever learns to speed up his release he will be a better quarterback. The rest of the season could be really, really ugly but here's to hoping against hope that Simms shocks the world and leads Tennessee to a string of unexpected victories! GBO!

NorthwestVol writes:

This is college football. Upsets happen. Matt Simms is a couple of upsets away from becoming a Tennessee legend. Odds are slim. Almost non-existent.

But this is college football......

RoadTrip writes:

Best of luck, Matt! Glad you are a VFL. Think quickly tomorrow.

volaholic45 writes:

Damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead. Nothing to lose.

volpreacher writes:

in response to NachoPappy_76:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No im not. Used to not be able to. Its been years since I've been. Thanks though. Go Vols. No. 1 going down tomorrow

PdxVol writes:

opportunity is now here for Simms

jomo11 writes:

After an almost for sure loss to LSU, Dooley's record as a head coach for 4 1/2 years will be 26-30 , 9-10 at UTK. . . . That's enough games to set a trend. . . .when coach has that kind of record over that period of time, he usually stays at that pace. . . Also in those 26 wins, zero have come against teams that have finished their seasons with a winning record. . . .do you see a trend here ? . . . . .you can rationalize all you won't about young, low numbers of upperclassman , etc.... But at the end of the day " you are what your record is"

gilesvol writes:

I hope someone can help me here. Going to my first game of the year tomorrow and the friend I got my tix from was also able get me g10 parking pass. Is there any reasonable chance that if I get there at 7am I'll be able to get on the upperdeck?

ReVolver writes:

The anti-dooleys out there out there are oblivious to the positive signs, and ignorant about what 'rebuilding' means. I believe that most of them just don't like his personality.

You can tell from the way they almost desperately recycle the same nonsense...they don't care about the facts of our team's situation, and I don't think they'd be happy if we were a one-loss team at the end of the season: they'd find something else to gripe about, or find 'reasons' we won in spite of Dooley.

I am looking forward to our bigger steps coming over the next couple of years.

"Let the Spirit of the Hill
Every Vol with courage fill
Your loyalty means our victory
So fight, Vols, fight!"

underthehill writes:

in response to richvol:

Would'nt it be great if Matt finished what he started last year in Baton Rouge.I have a feeling that Tennessee wil be ready to play Saturday.

I had that feeling last week ...turned out it was gas...

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Give it your best shot, Orange.

It's a very tall order with a lot of pounding involved.

Better days ahead in Nov.

We can hope.

jdcdjc writes:

Someone ask in an earlier post where Zack Sharp of MHS was playing ball. He is at Tenn Tech, is 22 for 22 on extra points, 4 of 7 on field goals, and still booming them into the end zone.

brokendownoldvol writes:

Take plenty of ibuprofen before amd after the game Matt.

MemphoVol writes:

What is that quote? Tough times doesn't build character, it reveals it. Matt has revealed his character to his team and coaches. If the team follows Matt's lead, it will have a much greater impact long after the win/loss record of this season is forgotten.

Vol43 writes:

in response to TheBlue:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

ES&D

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

in response to NorthwestVol:

This is college football. Upsets happen. Matt Simms is a couple of upsets away from becoming a Tennessee legend. Odds are slim. Almost non-existent.

But this is college football......

Yes, but with the SEC officials, can an underdog ever beat another SEC team with a top national ranking, headed to a BCS bowl? The reality is that the unranked team has to beat both the ranked team and the officials.

Pipe_Down_Otis writes:

The O-line may be look a little better at pass blocking this year, but part of that is because Bray gets rid of the ball so quick. Matt likes to hold on to it longer. But if we are going to have any chance today, we have to run the football. And a few turnovers by them wouldn't hurt.

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