Offensive line keeping Tyler Bray protected

Bray enjoying improved protection

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray passes under pressure from Montana's Caleb McSurdy, left, during the second half of the Vols' victory over the Grizzlies on Sept. 3 at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee won 42-16 in the home opener.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray passes under pressure from Montana's Caleb McSurdy, left, during the second half of the Vols' victory over the Grizzlies on Sept. 3 at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee won 42-16 in the home opener.

Tyler Bray on Florida's secondary, Vol's offensive line

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.

On average, that's close to how long a college quarterback has before the pocket starts collapsing around him.

Panic with a quick release, and the receivers won't have any time to develop their routes. Wait too long, and the play ends behind the line of scrimmage.

Of course, not every play is the same, especially when an offensive line is protecting the quarterback like Tennessee's has with Tyler Bray. An extra Mississippi or two has gone a long way for Bray and the Vols through the first two games of the season.

"They're finally understanding what they need to do and the concept of what (offensive coordinator Jim Chaney) wants them to do," Bray said. "It's the difference of me checking it down or throwing it deep for a touchdown."

The latter has been a much more common occurrence through the first two games of Bray's sophomore season.

Bray torched the secondaries of Montana and Cincinnati for a combined 698 passing yards and seven touchdowns, totals that rank near the top in the nation and were previously unseen at such a young age in UT history. He's been doing it with the help of two dynamic playmaking receivers in Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, but he's also had time on his side.

Bray was sacked three times in the season opener, but was never officially hurried outside those instances. Against Cincinnati, when he racked up 405 passing yards and completed all but seven of his pass attempts, Bray never touched the ground and was hurried just once.

There is, at least, a partial correlation between Bray's big numbers and the offensive line's low sack/hurry totals.

"When all five guys are blocking, the kid behind us is going to make plays," right tackle Ju'Wuan James said. "We have a lot of playmakers out there. We try to put it on our backs on passes.

"If we can leave him untouched then he's going to make a play."

The Vols' offensive line doesn't have to think hard to remember when it wasn't keeping the quarterback off his back.

Through the first eight games of 2010, the unit surrendered 31 sacks, as Matt Simms took the brunt of the heavy hits from some of the country's top defensive linemen. Since Bray took over as the team's starter, UT has surrendered just 13 sacks, less than two per game.

The competition has certainly dipped since that brutal stretch in which the Vols went 2-6. But there's more to it than just the players on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, UT's linemen said.

The Vols' front five, which now features one junior and four sophomores compared to the senior, sophomore and three true freshmen it played last year, isn't overwhelmed by the complexities of college defenses anymore.

"We had never seen it and we were young and our minds were just going crazy looking at the fronts," left tackle Dallas Thomas said. "We improved so much. All that goes to Coach (Harry) Hiestand and him drilling us and him going over fronts with us and understanding the defenses."

The Vols (2-0) will have a better gauge of how far they've truly come Saturday (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.) at No. 16 Florida (2-0). The Gators boast what coach Derek Dooley called the "most talented defensive line in the nation" and will be rejuvenated by the return of sophomore Sharrif Floyd, who missed the first two games of the season because of an NCAA suspension.

"What's next," Dooley said, is "what matters," not what the Vols did against overmatched defenders from Montana and Cincinnati.

"It's going to be a big test for us," guard Alex Bullard said. "We just have to watch the film and get ready to play. We're extremely confident as an offensive line."

That confidence has been contagious to both the players behind them and the ones flanked to their sides.

Hunter and Rogers have proved to be valuable on short, quick routes, but they are at their best on plays that take longer to develop, such as double moves that often leave defenders grasping at their heels.

The more times Bray can say "Mississippi," the more likely it is the throw will be placed perfectly in their hands.

"He's very dangerous," Rogers said. "He's 6-(foot-)6 back there, he can see the whole field. When you've got him back there sitting with no one on him, he can pick you apart."

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 » 30

apostolicman writes:

First!!!
I Think we will be very competitive against the Gators. I think we present a test for them as well as they are to us.

Packer_Park_Orange (Inactive) writes:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

eVOLved writes:

VOLS gonna win this one!

windy writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

I think you should just shut the He!! up.

LONEWOLF-VOL writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

You should take your own advise,might serve you well..

GO VOLS!!!!
We will not be intimidated!!!

P.S. Inside College Football is picking the VOLS......sorry,It'll be the first loss of many,you'll get used to it...trust me

abnermc writes:

in response to LONEWOLF-VOL:

You should take your own advise,might serve you well..

GO VOLS!!!!
We will not be intimidated!!!

P.S. Inside College Football is picking the VOLS......sorry,It'll be the first loss of many,you'll get used to it...trust me

I think they may already be used to it. Remember, they lost 5 games last year w/ the claim that that they had best talent (self proclaimed top recruiting for years)

516milesfromUT writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

True!
I am sure they can wait until 6:45pm Saturday.
-T-

jack_2222#231746 writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

Your desperation is oh so evident.

uf has to blitz. Alot. They have no other choice.

Gosh think Chaney and Bray know that?

VolinCalif writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

Pee Pee you're the very last person that should say someone should keep their mouth shut.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Man, I can't wait until Saturday!

LONEWOLF-VOL writes:

in response to abnermc:

I think they may already be used to it. Remember, they lost 5 games last year w/ the claim that that they had best talent (self proclaimed top recruiting for years)

you're right,they just can't seem to admitt it. They remind me of all the Jaguars fans,only fans if there team is winning

GO VOLS!!!

ThaiVolFan writes:

I'm seeing some well timed screens that are going to gash the Florida defense when they are bringing the house to try and pressure Bray. "It's Poole at the 40, the 50, the 40, the 30, the 20, the 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and into the checker-boarded swamp...Touchdown Big Orange!"

tennvolsman19651965 writes:

Stop the run, and we win. Keep Bray protected and we win. Plain and simple. Brantley cant beat us, and we cant win running the ball. These two teams are exact opposites. They cant stop our pass, and we will see if we can contain thier run.

tennvolsman19651965 writes:

Has anyone heard when Herman Lathers will be back?

UTbassdrummer writes:

I keep waiting for one of our "article skimmers" to
comment on why kns insists on mentioning
MISSISSIPPI so much in this article.

Hurry up, Saturday!!

Pompey writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

...pack that orange in your vent, creep!

VOLliven2it writes:

We will need to protect Bray from the Fray. We will need to not make turnovers. We will get penalties, never fails at away games. Our d needs make d also represent discipline. We have shown a number of vulnerabilities even though we had two BIG 4th down stops against Cincinn. I like our chances IF...we take care of business and play our game. If we get in their mode or try to play beyond ourselves, eh-oh could be trouble. Thing is, even at home Florida is in the same situation. GO VOLS!

zman44 writes:

We will get a glimpse of what the line can really do within the first 2 series. If the line holds up, Bray will have a big day, and UT will have an excellent chance of winning. If Florida's front-7, which is definitely a top-5 national unit, eats the UT O-line alive, then Bray will likely be carted off the field. He has never seen a defense like he will see on Saturday. We'll learn really quickly if he can elevate the oprogram at UT or if he is simply good enough to beat awful teams.

TommyJack writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

Pee Pee you're the very last person that should say someone should keep their mouth shut.

FudgePacker is so obviously KNS. Pitiful

VolsUpsetYetAnother writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

Is it true that your Packer Park Orange is your handle on those rainbow chat rooms? I.E. Meet me in the Park, i'll be wearing the orange speedos, and bring your Packer!!!! LOL Jackaboo!

finn writes:

in response to TommyJack:

FudgePacker is so obviously KNS. Pitiful

It's gotten to the point where I find it hard to even skim the comments because of the all the garbage posts by supposed 'trolls.' Is this KNS's sorry attempt to drive activity (aka...ad dollars) by spouting some trash and waiting for the comments circus to ensue?

finn writes:

On another note, what happened to Arnette. A speedy slot receiver could be just what UT needs for quick dumps to avoid pressure.

NeylandWest writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

Had they barely beat either of those teams, you'd have a decent argument. Tennessee's identity may not be that of a running team, but dear God can they light up the skies!

givehim6 writes:

This will be a good week for CDD to open the playbook a bit on the running game, maybe a few passes to the TE. Rembember the talk about the big three receivers? Hunter, Rogers, the 3ed guy slips my mind he never did produce last year, but was going too this year. Maybe Sat. will be his and Zak Rogers day. Nobody knows but coach, I expect to see a surprize or two, rembember the on side kick last Saterday?

The_Swamp writes:

in response to apostolicman:

First!!!
I Think we will be very competitive against the Gators. I think we present a test for them as well as they are to us.

I completely agree.

Rockytop38 writes:

The OL has got to give Tyler some time. He can not be hurried or on the run. If he has some time back there it could be a long day for the Gators.

The_Real_Orange writes:

It should be a good game. In reality we still wont know what kind of season either team will have regardless of the outcome. Both of these teams are made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores. Win or lose, we will both still be underdogs against LSU & BAMA and probably to USCe. Safe travels this week Vol fans.

OsbourneBROS83 writes:

in response to Packer_Park_Orange:

The way this bunch run blocked against the Cubcats and the Fizzlies...I'd think Chaney and his darlings would want to keep their mouths shut until they actually beat somebody.

Why even claim to be a fan of Tennessee or even a casual supporter. You never have anything good to say about the Vols. Just curious what your motivations are?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to givehim6:

This will be a good week for CDD to open the playbook a bit on the running game, maybe a few passes to the TE. Rembember the talk about the big three receivers? Hunter, Rogers, the 3ed guy slips my mind he never did produce last year, but was going too this year. Maybe Sat. will be his and Zak Rogers day. Nobody knows but coach, I expect to see a surprize or two, rembember the on side kick last Saterday?

I could be wrong, but I think Rivera, the tight end, had six catches against Cincy. Bray generally spread the ball around pretty well last week. If the Gators try to double both Rogers and Hunter--more likely drop seven to play a zone in the defensive backfield--there should be openings both for shorter passes and for the running game. If Florida can't bring consistent pressure with the front four, the Gators will be in for a looooong day.

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

Actuaslly we had 2 of our TE's catching passes last week which was great to see.

If they try to double our WR's then we'll still have 2 TE's that can catch balls and when they try to cover them with LB's then our RB's will get more yards.

FACT is that we've only used about 10% of our playbook these 1st 2 games so floriDUHHH has several surprises in store for them and we'll still keep alot of our surprises hidden until late in the 3rd quarter and the 4th quarter.

I expect we'll use several more WR's this game too and by the late 3rd and 4th quarters the floriDUHHH DB's will be run half to death and looking for oxagen and we'll really pass at will on them.

You can bet that CDD and CJC have been making plans for this game for several months.

This is the 1st year in several years that we have a legit chance to get a WIN over floriDUHHH and doing it at the swamp will just make it all the sweeter.

VFL...GO BIG ORANGE!!!

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