Coach Dooley on QB Tyler Bray's improvement
In UT's last three games, Bray has completed 93 of 144 passes (65 percent) for 1,302 yards, 13 touchdowns and only one interception — a last-gasp pass at South Carolina.
Certainly, Bray must be elated with the results?
"We haven't gone 3-0," Bray said with stone-face.
The Vols, in fact, have gone 1-2 (and very nearly 0-3) during Bray's hot streak against the Gamecocks, Troy and Missouri, underscoring the inadequacy of a one-man solution to Tennessee's woes.
The Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) play at Vanderbilt (6-4, 4-3) on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
Bray's numbers are particularly impressive when compared with the three-game stretch that preceded it. During that stretch, which included losses to Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama, Bray threw four touchdowns and six
interceptions and passes for only 613 yards.
Coach Derek Dooley even publicly contemplated benching Bray if he didn't stop being so "loose with the football."
Three weeks later, things have changed, and Bray's improved play has revived discussion about whether he plans to leave after his junior season for the NFL draft.
Projections for Bray vary wildly, with some seeing him as an early pick and others seeing him as a late-round project.
"I couldn't care less," Bray said of his possible NFL future. "That's what you guys are paid to write about and talk about."
Bray said his progress has been years in the making. At a gangly 6-foot-6, Bray sometimes looked and felt awkward in the pocket earlier in his career. He said steady practice on footwork has helped.
"A lot of the throws I've not made have been because of my footwork," Bray said. "I can't say that I've improved that much, but I've grown into my body a little more. I've become more athletic, which sounds crazy, but I have."
Receiver Justin Hunter said he's seen Bray grow throughout the season.
"I think our chemistry is there," Hunter said. "He's out there practicing really good and it shows on the field. I think he's a lot calmer than he was at the beginning of the season."
Bray has previously griped that no matter what he says, it's twisted or criticized. On the field, he's ripped for his body language — sometimes appearing not to care, other times appearing too angry. When he skipped a media session after a bad game, he was criticized. When he joked after a loss, he also took heat.
Tuesday's interview session only seemed to prove his point. During friendly banter with a reporter, Bray said, "I'm paid to win games." The quote, devoid of context, became viral on the Internet and was roundly mocked.
As for his body language, Dooley said he's never felt that Bray was trying to be disrespectful or "show up" the coaching staff. In fact, both Dooley and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney have ardently defended Bray's passion for the game.
"(Bray) would go for it if it was fourth-and-15 on the minus-10," Dooley said. "He just wants to go score points ... It's not adversarial. He's not showing up the coaches, but he would like to call plays."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.