Mike Strange: Tyler Bray getting his act together and thinking big

Mike Strange

Derek Dooley on the first day of spring practice

Tyler Bray was asked Monday what goals he might have for spring practice. His answer wasn't about the technical minutia that is germane to spring ball.

No, it was big picture.

Spring goals?

"Just to get this team back to where it needs to be," said Bray. "Get it back to where we were in the '90s."

Hello. No beating around the bush.

Tennessee fans, at least the portion of them who imbibe in talk radio and chat rooms, have an uneasy relationship with their quarterback.

He has thrilled them with his physical skills. He has frustrated them with his perceived cavalier attitude at times.

He knows this, which counts for something.

"Last year," Bray said in his first media setting since the season-ending loss at Kentucky, "I wasn't the smartest guy. Kind of dumb.

"This year I'm trying to get my act together and trying to get this team where it needs to be."

If Bray could lead this program back to where

it was in the '90s, all past questionable moments would be forgiven.

He can't do it alone, of course. And given how far the Vols have fallen relative to certain rivals, even an All-America season from Bray wouldn't guarantee a return to the good old days.

But you've got to like the fact that he's thinking that way. It's progress.

As spring practice gets under way this week, Bray is beginning the second half of his career at UT. It's time to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.

"I've tried to be a leader as much as possible," Bray said. "I've kind of struggled at it, but I'm working on it."

Some embrace leadership more readily than others. Bray isn't the first kid thrust into the spotlight early on who suffered a misstep or two.

The spotlight doesn't get any brighter than it gets on a quarterback in SEC football. Coming from rural California, it's easy to see that Bray might not have been fully up to speed on the expectations that awaited.

And he wasn't stepping into Tennessee of the '90s. He arrived at a program teetering on the edge of desperation.

It appears better days are ahead, both for the Vols and the gun-slinging quarterback who will lead them.

"Tyler has definitely stepped up as a leader," said offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James. "In the weight room he's been more vocal and out here he's been more vocal."

Like Bray said, he's trying. If he "gets his act together" the sky is the limit because there's never been any question about his tools.

With only 12 starts under his belt, he's already ninth on the UT career passing yardage chart and seventh on the TD-pass chart. If he throws for two scores against North Carolina State in the opener he'll be fourth.

Speaking of the '90s, Bray has already spent time in Peyton Manning's celestial statistical neighborhood.

His 10 consecutive games of multiple TD passes broke Manning's school record. Against Cincinnati last fall he joined Manning as the only Vol to pass for 400 yards in a game.

In fact, before he hurt his thumb against Georgia last year, Bray was off to the most prolific four-game start in UT passing history.

Neither UT nor Bray were the same after the injury. He missed five games and wasn't as effective when he returned for the final two.

As for the crash at Kentucky, Bray was as bummed as anyone initially. He said he's been coached to get over adversity quickly and move on to the next thing.

That's one reason he still hasn't watched the Kentucky tape.

"But I know I played terrible," he said. "The team played terrible too, but as quarterback, I kind of started it off, going downhill."

That's in the past. Spring is here and with it the promise of a new season, a change of direction.

The quarterback is thinking big.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 52

Classof72 writes:

The past is past. We're very fortunate to have a QB with his ability. I hope to see a well-prepared QB and team that doesn't screw up much and never quits. Their talent and depth will sometimes be overmatched so my expectations are modest.

GONAVY writes:

Note to Bray: leaders don't "try" to lead...they don't "try to work on it"...they just lead. You are still stuck on zero. I think there are plenty of others who'll step up and lead by fall, though.

GiveHim6TDTennessee writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

keepitreal4vols writes:

Tyler Bray is a leader??? Haaaaaaaaaaa. April Fool's joke, right?

AllVol1 writes:

Will you whiney babies ever grow up? You can't wait to tear down a twenty year old kid for not being perfect, but you sound like a band of hags who wouldn't know how to lead at anything other than belly-aching.

Tyler, there are plenty of true Volunteer fans who support you. You are young and you've made some mistakes. We all have. The important thing is that you are recognizing where you can improve and focusing on what you need to do to support your team and your university. These are the signs of a leader. Only when you do your own work to improve can you begin to lead others through word and/or example. I honor these steps of growth that you are showing.

ReVolver writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yay for taking potshots at Dooley for no reason whatsoever!

Dude, did somebody steal your crayons as a kid or something, or have you just recently become a whiney idiot?

MidTennVol writes:

Don't ever forget that KY game, son -- not until you replace it with a championship.

SummittsCourt writes:

Bray to Hunter for a Tennessee Touchdown!

Get used to hearing that a lot this season.

Go Vols!

Southland writes:

his goal is to go pro at the end of this year that has been his goal from day one. This is his words from his best friend. He is fired up about this year only because he plans on it being his last. He is still not a leader although he has great talent

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Bray to Hunter for a Tennessee Touchdown!

Get used to hearing that a lot this season.

Go Vols!

Exactly!! Many seem to forget how much of the offense was lost last year when Hunter injured his knee and Bray broke his thumb. I am very optimistic that this program is getting turned around, starting with spring ball. GBO!!!

PHAT_VOL writes:

Maybe the team will be like the Blue Tick tied to a tree and fed slop. There comes a time when get loose and go to howling and a biten.
Take out your flustrations and anger on the team across the line of scrimmage.

Its all about growing up.
GO VOLS!!!

FanNotSheep writes:

Good story. Maybe now Jimmy Hyams and the Haters will take their band of old-school self righteousness down the road somewhere. The QB I saw in the Montana game was on a level that only a certain number 16 had been on in my years of watching the Vols. When Bray, Hunter and Rodgers were on the field together it was a dangerous offense. I believe had Hunter and Bray stayed healthy the team wins over Florida and is competing in every game.

Anyone who says Bray is not capable of greatness knows NOTHING about football. So my hope is the team stays healthy and moves forward with the kind of season to shut the idiots up. I think the first two are possible. The third? Well, a guy can dream, right?

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

in response to GiveHim6TDTennessee:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ironcity writes:

in response to AllVol1:

Will you whiney babies ever grow up? You can't wait to tear down a twenty year old kid for not being perfect, but you sound like a band of hags who wouldn't know how to lead at anything other than belly-aching.

Tyler, there are plenty of true Volunteer fans who support you. You are young and you've made some mistakes. We all have. The important thing is that you are recognizing where you can improve and focusing on what you need to do to support your team and your university. These are the signs of a leader. Only when you do your own work to improve can you begin to lead others through word and/or example. I honor these steps of growth that you are showing.

Amen

GONAVY writes:

in response to orangesheep:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

When I read your post I envisioned hearing John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" blaring in my mind. Don't know why...but just think about it :)

tovolny writes:

UTKin1992 writes:

blah, blah, blah, blah...whatever.

BigBadVol writes:

I'm still amazed by the ignorance shown by posters on this board. None of you have ever competed at a high level. It's obvious. Go ahead and pile on with your immature comments. I'm sure it will make you feel better about your pathetic lives. Hurry up now, Jerry Springer is coming on soon. You don't want to miss it. What a bunch of losers.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to tovolny:

I agree.

AncientVolFan writes:

If only we could replace our team and our coaches with the posters on this board, then we would go undefeated every year.
Perhaps putting some of our posters in the trenches against the SEC opposition defenses and allowing them to hurl insults at the opposition defense would improve our play. (8-)

GONAVY writes:

in response to atributetoLombardiwasbanned:

I agree.

:)

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say the bs predictions are one thing but this is over the line...proof? Classless. KNS needs to remove you sad you said this..wow.
Bones never lie.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Bray to Hunter then Bray to Rodgers and the run game might work a tiny bit, Vols score enough to make it a game and who knows? Surely you didn't think last year's UF team was one of your better ones? I'm just saying with the three amigos healthy UT had a chance. When first Hunter, then Bray got hurt, Vols had no chance against UF or any quality SEC opponent. Now if I could just see some potential in the offensive line. Just getting a year older doesn't mean they'll suddenly know how to open holes against SEC defenses. Guess we will find out when you Gators come to town.

Vol43 writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey bret, when they kick you to the curb, who you gonna come back to be?

Here ya go:

"they_say_i'm_trash_and_they're_right"

HopeisNotaCourseofAction writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey hater, just go away. No one here on the UT site cares who you hate or cares what you think about our players, team, or potential. Just slither back in the slimey mud and dirty water and disappear forever.

RockyMtnVol writes:

Wow! some of you are just out of touch.

"Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge"............Horace Mann

GBO!!!

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Let's agree to disagree. But I do remember when a visor throwing dude stomped your sidelines and he had one QB and a couple receivers every year that made ALL the difference.

Last year is history, next year is a mystery and I want Bray leading my team against anybody you throw out there. Cool?

Vol43 writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No offense toddy, but think about it for a minute. I bet it will come to you.

Vol43 writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey jeff, I'd love to hear you say these things to Dooley's face. Something tells me you wouldn't do it. Afraid of getting your arse whipped maybe?

Vol43 writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You missed it buddy. Now try again. Hint: It has something to do with Elton John. What do you and Elton have in common?

GerryOP writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nonsense...

CharlestonVOL writes:

in response to Sammy_Burklows_Revenge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually what I saw was a player encouraging his backup and trying to keep his teammates in the games when he was out. You just are a miserable old basta** aren't you? Go find another team to cheer for or criticize or whatever the hell it is that you do.

GerryOP writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

More nonsense....

GerryOP writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who is "us?"

Vol43 writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Toddy, please don't make me say it. You're really not a bad guy, and I find you rather entertaining at times, but you still didn't get the point. "Elton and Toddy sittin' in a tree....."

NashvillePreds writes:

Kudos to the writer for implementing both the words, "minutia & germane" in the opening paragraph.
As for Bray, I hope he means what he says, but talk is cheap. We'll see in September.
Go Vols

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Southland:

his goal is to go pro at the end of this year that has been his goal from day one. This is his words from his best friend. He is fired up about this year only because he plans on it being his last. He is still not a leader although he has great talent

I don't care what his motivation is, as long as it results in the kind of overall improvement he needs to make if he is to be a high draft choice. I'm sure someone has told him by now that he has to show leadership and maturity if he is to be accepted as a leader by pros. He has probably also been told that he needs to strengthen his body, be able to make a whole variety of throws and learn to read sophisticated defenses. Chaney knows enough about what it takes to be a successful pro QB, so if for whatever reason Tyler decides that is what he wants to be, so much the better for the Vols this season.

Vol43 writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Atta boy, Toddy! You're okay in my book. I hope you're wrong about coach. I'm headed to the golf course, see you later.....I'm sure, and have a good day.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RockyMtnVol:

Wow! some of you are just out of touch.

"Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge"............Horace Mann

GBO!!!

GREAT quote! I am a modest collector of such gems, and that is surely one I will remember. Glad there is someone else on here that sees the value of good thought.

abnermc writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You sound worried & you should be.

NashvillePreds writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah. Winning 85% of the games, as well as 3 SEC Championships ('90, '97, '98) and a National Championship ('98) is pretty rough.
Maybe you should find someone whom actually cares what you have to say...

Vol_Stuck_in_GA writes:

Third post like this today on three different articles (my apologies to those who have seen the repeats).. but I am frustrated by so many of these messages.

Real Tennessee fans support the university, the teams, the players, and the coaches. If you are not a Tennessee fan you are on the wrong message board. Make a decision!

SevenT writes:

Tyler Bray is the most over-rated player in the history of the SEC. Ever notice he has never won a big game? Ever notice when he cried like a little boy on National TV after a loss? Beat somebody other than Buffalo and maybe someone outside of the hollers of East Tennessee will notice. Looking forward to another 7 loss season.

Just Saying

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to SevenT:

Tyler Bray is the most over-rated player in the history of the SEC. Ever notice he has never won a big game? Ever notice when he cried like a little boy on National TV after a loss? Beat somebody other than Buffalo and maybe someone outside of the hollers of East Tennessee will notice. Looking forward to another 7 loss season.

Just Saying

My guess is he has done more than you.

lemme_axya_this writes:

in response to Vol43:

You missed it buddy. Now try again. Hint: It has something to do with Elton John. What do you and Elton have in common?

He did say something last week about "pressure" and "trying to top himself".

mikkim writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wrong dude....these are not paid athletes or public figures of record....you can't just accuse him of smoking pot!!! Sorry...does not work for college athletes...Dooley is a different story. These are teenage kids regardless of what you might think or feel they deserve. Man....upside down world .... kids trying to act like adults and adults acting like kids more and more and neither situation every works!!

kcbigorngX writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You know, I bet there are several who care. They type one-handed, and keep the lotion bottle behind the monitor.

Oh, and you can't hurt someone using that with which you are not familiar.

Look out, here come Troy and 'Lizbeth....

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to GONAVY:

Note to Bray: leaders don't "try" to lead...they don't "try to work on it"...they just lead. You are still stuck on zero. I think there are plenty of others who'll step up and lead by fall, though.

I'm sure a vandy geek has no intentions other than building confidence in UT's QB..Are you freakin serious??

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to GatorBait88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You missed my point. You said a QB and couple of receivers couldn't make much diff for UT. I pointed out how successful UF was under Spurrier when the passing game was mostly what they had. Couple of good running backs, sure, but mostly 2 or 3 short-to-medium passes, a run, then a 50-yard TD.

I know this because I suffered through every one of the losses. And I know a great passing game when I see one, whether Spurrier devised it or QBs like Manning executed it for UT. Bray is the real deal when healthy. UT's O-line could not push Montana off the line so Bray and Hunter and Rodgers had to all be there for the Vols to have a prayer. Hope Hunter comes all the way back, and if he does it will finally be a rivalry again.

I think you want that too if you are a true fan. Because you know how great the years were when it was Florida or Tennessee and every other East team was playing for third.

Vol43 writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're killing me over here toddy. Too funny. Your legs! OMG what next? Are you really Stewie on Family Guy?

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