Tyler Bray on spring practice and his improvement at QB
Pretty numbers might be nice to look at, but they're not a requirement for Jim Chaney.
The Tennessee offensive coordinator likes to experiment in scrimmages, testing out different routes, throwing the ball deep and seeing what works best for his quarterback.
That can lead to some unattractive looking statistics in the spring, though perhaps that wasn't the sole reason for a few ugly outings for Tyler Bray during camp a year ago. But regardless of what goes in the box score from the first scrimmage of camp this morning at Neyland Stadium, the intangibles the junior starter plays with figure to be more important for the Vols.
"Quite honestly, we would have liked for him to have performed better last fall and last spring, and he seems a lot more mature and a lot more driven than he ever has," Chaney said during his media session on Wednesday. "I just want him to go out there and be the best football player he can be. He plays the quarterback spot, so he has to have a little bit more control of the offense, and I think he does.
"As far as all the numbers and things, I'm trying things in spring football that we might not do, but when else do you look at them? I might throw three Deep-seven Shake routes with him. If you throw those at 1-out-of-3, you're damn lucky. You guys see 33 percent and go, 'My God, he's horrible.' "
Despite some uneven results during the first two scrimmages at this time last year, it wasn't
the numbers released from those closed workouts that seemed to generate a couple questions about his development heading into his sophomore season. Even if the numbers didn't count, it was Bray's 5-of-30, 122-yard outing in the Orange and White Game that stirred questions about his maturity and willingness to embrace competition every time he stepped on the field.
But the reviews from the winter conditioning program and six practices so far have been positive, and he has a prime opportunity to back it up as the Vols near the midway point of spring.
"I think what you're talking about is maturity," Chaney said. "You noticed that with Tyler, I noticed that with a lot of our kids — I see the maturity of our offense being a little greater right now. They seem more driven, more focused to work on details and I think they understand that they feel like they're going to be good, but they also now understand that they've got to go to work.
"Every day we're coming out here and competing, and every day (Bray) has got to show his maturity and his right to earn the spot to be our quarterback. Every day he's got to earn that."
The Vols have two young quarterbacks pushing him now, with both sophomore Justin Worley and early enrollee Nathan Peterman drawing praise from the coaching staff and giving them some depth under center.
Bray is the clear favorite at the top of the depth chart after piling up some gaudy numbers when healthy in games that actually count during his two seasons with the program. And while his progress could easily continue without the benefit of eye-catching stats in scrimmages, Chaney said he wouldn't mind trying the alternative this time.
"Everybody says things like that, that you learn through some of the bad things that take place," Chaney said. "I think it's possible to learn through good things.
"I'd much rather have him throw 75 percent last year and learn a lot of lessons that way instead of what took place."