Ron Higgins: Skills alone won't make Vols' Tyler Bray a leader

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) leaves the field after Mississippi State defeated the Vols 41-31 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (8) leaves the field after Mississippi State defeated the Vols 41-31 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

There's little doubt that University of Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray has the physical skills to have a productive National Football League career.

At 6-6, 215 pounds, he has one of the strongest arms in college football. And no one has disputed his courage in playing hurt.

But what can be called into question - once again - is his lack of judgment and a tendency for his focus to wander at the worst of times.

It's happened several times off the field, twice this past summer when Bray and a friend vandalized two cars at an apartment complex where he was living by throwing beer bottles and golf balls from a balcony.

He was also ticketed for recklessly operating a jet ski on July 4.

College athletes - no, make that mostly college football players - sometimes have a tendency to think they are bulletproof, maybe because of the physical nature of the sport and the perceived Big Man on Campus status.

A few players think they aren't subject to laws, rules or using common sense.

Bray's latest brain cramp came after the Vols' 41-31 loss at Mississippi State last Saturday to fall to 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Upset by criticism on Twitter, Bray tweeted: "We got some bandwagon fans. Hopefully my apt. isn't egged."

One of Bray's friends, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, found his house egged and rolled a couple of weeks ago after the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina. Murray also discovered that day that his father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. But a poised Murray never took a shot back at the fans in any form of media.

Bray deleted his tweet and issued a Twitter apology on Sunday, saying he was frustrated by the loss and added publicly on Tuesday that "it's been two weeks in a row we could have won, and I was just frustrated."

Tennessee third-year coach Derek Dooley, as he has with Bray's other incidents, gave his only viable quarterback the benefit of the doubt.

"It is classic impulse control, when you are angry, lonely, tired, hurt," Dooley said of Bray's tweet. "It could have been a good tweet if he had left out the first part. He should have just said, 'I hope my house doesn't get egged tonight.' It could have been kind of funny."

What's not funny is the lack of maturity in a 21-year-old who has started 18 college games as a quarterback, who still reacts with thin skin and who has a head coach who basically dismisses it.

It shouldn't be a big deal. But little things add up when you're losing and can't stop.

Quarterbacks are supposed to be leaders, supposed to set the example on and off the field. If a quarterback can't keep focus and discipline off the field in the offseason, or after a tough loss, can his teammates count on him when games are on the line?

Apparently not, since Bray is 4-6 in 10 career starts in SEC games. In the fourth quarter of those league contests, he has completed just 45 percent of his passes - 40-of-89 - for 489 yards, four interceptions and three TDs while being sacked four times.

Bray has lost six of his last seven SEC starts. This season, he has completed just 9-of-27 passes for 120 yards, two interceptions and lost a fumble in the fourth quarters of losses to Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State.

But it's all great with Dooley, because it has to be. He doesn't have another QB with Bray's raw skills, and Dooley, with a 4-15 career record in SEC play and 0-13 vs. ranked teams, needs every win he can get to save his job.

Contact Ron Higgins at higgins@commercialappeal.com.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 42

DarkGable writes:

How many Tyler is immature, Tyler lacks leadership, Tyler this Tyler that can you guys write? We've heard this over and over again. Get some new material.

PMC2726 writes:

DarkGable, it's the story of this team. These stories will only end when Tyler grows up (or leaves early for the NFL or graduates). This is NOT a media problem. It's a Tyler/CDD problem.

tractoronthepole writes:

Bray reminds me of Bobby Herbert of New Orleans. He was quarterback of the Saints in late 90's. He was never a leader and always looked mad at others when things went wrong. He had all the physical tools, but never understood how to take the blame for a bad play or to put take responsibility for the bad play and tell the guys my bad.

eVOLved writes:

Tyler Bray is a good quarterback, and I am tired of all the negative articles. How about this: Bray is a better quarterback than this hack is a writer. I'm seeing Gribble articles because we are playing Bama, and I will say that Gribble was the best sportswriter in Knoxville. Hire him back, KNS.

bfowler1161#262198 writes:

Until Bray wins a "big" game, there is no new material. Bad plays happen, sometimes due to our lack of execution, sometimes due to another player making a great play, ala James Bank last weekend. Keep your head on straight and make the next play!

eVOLved writes:

Gribble's best work: interpretation of the social media surrounding D. Rogers, the NCAA hearing articles, introducing new players. Also, the volume of work on a daily basis was amazing. That void has not been filled.

We have a great team that has lost half of its games so far. D. Dooley still seems like a good coach--certainly likeable, and I want to see what he can do in a couple more years. Pointing at 4th quarter stats for the qb may seem more revealing than it really is, especially considering the tanking that has been happening since the vols lost a good number of players with two coaching changes. I'd rather continue to watch our team, hope they make it to a bowl game, and see how the next couple years play out. Orange glass or not, I am tired of the negavols.

Who knows, maybe the sports writing can get back to where it was a few years ago.

15_counting writes:

Wonder how he will handle the crowd noise this week? LOL!

CoverOrange writes:

That's the view from 400 miles away. All Higgins knows is what he reads on the internet.

dendeb18#1413083 writes:

in response to PMC2726:

DarkGable, it's the story of this team. These stories will only end when Tyler grows up (or leaves early for the NFL or graduates). This is NOT a media problem. It's a Tyler/CDD problem.

No, it's a Jim Chaney problem.

62vol writes:

Ron Higgins publishing his opinion of Bray and took a shot at him and says it is okay enough for fans to egg a house or as he says "vandalize" it but it is wrong for the victum to tweet about it.

What was Ron Higgins thinking when he criticized Bray for immaturity but failed to see the gross immaturity of the act of egging a house. If Ron gets his house messed up because he wrote the article, he will look at things differently. And remember Ron if it happens, be mature and do not write about it.

keithgibson writes:

for all of the Bray bashers I have one question. does Bray play defence? maybe if the defence could stop anyone he would have a couple of sec wins this year.

Rumblefish writes:

Can we please get a QB in here that is able to RUN for the first down when needed??

Bray's flat-footed pocket presence is just frustrating.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to dendeb18#1413083:

No, it's a Jim Chaney problem.

+1
JC is the best coach the other team has

vq4nfo writes:

Bray needs a big win this year (Preferably in the 4th quarter) to get that confidence many QB's need. There are many QB's in the NFL that get into ruts and bounce back after a positive win against a good team. Lets hope it is this weekend. After the win Tyler has to show maturity and move forward on and off the field. If he can do that he will be great next year and a top NFL draft pick. If not, he will go in the latter rounds as a backup.

HooRay_Vol writes:

Bray Shmay......just let the offense loose, throw 50+ times, throw in a few half back passes and passing it to Bullard out of the TE position.

oldster writes:

Raw skills are the least important part of being a quaterback. Tim Tebow showed that. While he was a good runner for a QB, he could not and can not throw worth a hoot, yet his team won championships. The reason: intangibles like leadership and character. Does Bray have either? Did and does Payton not have these as well as physical and mental skills? Would Payton be what he is with only the physical and mental skills? Bray has a million dollar arm, attached to a $10 body with an IOU brain. No team will win championships or even big games with him as its starting QB.

oldster writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

+1
JC is the best coach the other team has

No, that would be SS.

TrouserCough writes:

He makes poor decisions every week that stem from not being a student of the game. He is an embarrassment to the program on and off the feild.

Munsterlander writes:

in response to keithgibson:

for all of the Bray bashers I have one question. does Bray play defence? maybe if the defence could stop anyone he would have a couple of sec wins this year.

Spot on.

Bray and the offense have scored 95 points in three losses to what are now the 2nd, 11th, and 12th ranked teams. Bray is not the problem.

Some people just have to b!tch. Morons.

IPOrange writes:

in response to tractoronthepole:

Bray reminds me of Bobby Herbert of New Orleans. He was quarterback of the Saints in late 90's. He was never a leader and always looked mad at others when things went wrong. He had all the physical tools, but never understood how to take the blame for a bad play or to put take responsibility for the bad play and tell the guys my bad.

Bobby Hebert led the 1991 Saints to their best start ever and second consecutive playoff appearance at the age of 31. He retired from the Falcons after the 96 season. Tyler Bray is 20. So apparently Bray's lack of maturity reminds you of someone much older that you don't really remember. Similarly, your rhetorical skill reminds me of that guy in the movie that I watched for a few minutes who was dumb.

richvol writes:

9 for 27 says it all. Bray is a choker.

atnvol#283282 writes:

I think back many years ago when I was 21.....I wasn't very mature either....I seriously doubt Ron Higgins was either.....I also did some things that were rather bonehead. I hope OUR team will play hard against Alabama....I am a VFL and proud of it.

CrankE writes:

in response to eVOLved:

Tyler Bray is a good quarterback, and I am tired of all the negative articles. How about this: Bray is a better quarterback than this hack is a writer. I'm seeing Gribble articles because we are playing Bama, and I will say that Gribble was the best sportswriter in Knoxville. Hire him back, KNS.

I'm tired of the negative articles too, but all that is required to dispel them is to perform on the field. Nothing more is required, nothing less is sufficient.

Nobody doubts Bray is a good QB. But at this point, he is not turning into the GREAT QB that he could be.

The real bummer is that between 3rd and Chaney and 1st and Sunseri, Bray could have a career day and UT stills walk away with a loss.

WelovePat writes:

in response to keithgibson:

for all of the Bray bashers I have one question. does Bray play defence? maybe if the defence could stop anyone he would have a couple of sec wins this year.

You mean DEFENSE? You're right if the defense could stop someone he would have a couple SEC wins:)

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

Can we please get a QB in here that is able to RUN for the first down when needed??

Bray's flat-footed pocket presence is just frustrating.

stinkyfish ...or Chicken Little .. whicheevveer!! since it seems there's not one good thing you can find to complement the young atheletes playing football for the Volunteers .. Tyler (Passing Efficency ranked 39th) and the offense have put enough points on the board in EVERY SINGLE game this year to have won. Tennessee is 22nd in Total Offense with 454 yds/game while Alabama is ranked 52nd at 423 yds/game. Tennessee is ranked 24th (38 pts/game) in the NCAA's stats web site in Scoring Offense, while Alabama is ranked 17th (40.5 pts/game). Yes, interceptions, dropped passes, fumbles, coaching gaffs AND ALL. Every team has ALL of those. Just a very few less on offense, OR had this years new 3-4 defense been even a little better we could have been looking at more wins. Yes, Bama's D is No. 1 in Scoring Defense at 7.5 pts/game, Tennessee is 90th at 31.5 pts/game. Alabama is No.1 in Total Defense with 3.13 yds/play (amazing) and Tennessee is 87th allowing 5.81 yds/play. 4-3 is hard to install. Alabama went 7-6 their first year when Saban put it in. Now look. Yes, the Vols D has to make real strides to keep the game close. I love suprises. Interesting to note that while I was looking at stats, I checked on Justin Wilcox who MOVED HOME to be Washington State's DC (15 miles from the town he was raised in). Justin has the Huskies Scoring Defense 84th giving up 30.43 pts/game, and Total Defense at 102nd giving up 5.79 yds/game. He's putting in a mix of the 3-4 and 4-3 this year. I will be looking for you and all the rest of the howlers to be out in force after the game. Those of us who back the players and their coaches know you well.

gatorhator4eva writes:

in response to DarkGable:

How many Tyler is immature, Tyler lacks leadership, Tyler this Tyler that can you guys write? We've heard this over and over again. Get some new material.

tough environment here on govols. i would say the writer is a douc*hbag. your going to undermine and criticize someone that u do not personally know? idiot thats real fair

62vol writes:

in response to CrankE:

I'm tired of the negative articles too, but all that is required to dispel them is to perform on the field. Nothing more is required, nothing less is sufficient.

Nobody doubts Bray is a good QB. But at this point, he is not turning into the GREAT QB that he could be.

The real bummer is that between 3rd and Chaney and 1st and Sunseri, Bray could have a career day and UT stills walk away with a loss.

So, be great or be bashed, you say and then you bash the coaches. Really?

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to TrouserCough:

He makes poor decisions every week that stem from not being a student of the game. He is an embarrassment to the program on and off the feild.

but he must be Haslam's nephew

arkansasvol1975 writes:

I have heard people compare Bray to Ryan Mallett when he was at Arkansas. Which I think is a very good comparison only Mallett has a very good head coach and QB coach. Mallett also won most of the big games he played in. I think Bray and Mallett are gunslingers that can make all the throws. Mallett was first listed as a 1st round pick but his "off the field" issues dropped him to the 3rd round. Bray will lilely fall into this category if he is ever selected in the NFL draft. I project Bray as a 5th round pick right now. If he had a good QB coach to teach him and make his butt stay out of trouble, then I think he could easily be a 1st or 2nd round pick. Young people make mistakes, you have to think before you act. Real leaders lead on and off the field. You never heard Peyton Manning, Casey Clausen,or Tee Martin having off the field issues.

Vols_fan_27 writes:

Bray can sling it with the best of them. The problem is that he has never really developed into a leader and I think it is for the simple fact that this is the first time in his career that he has had to face the heart of the SEC schedule. 2 years ago it was Simms, last year it was Worley. This is the first time that Bray has been through this stretch. I know he played the Florida and GA games last year but this year he is finally playing in them all in a year where things are expected out of this team and it just takes that experience to become a leader. Just because you have tools doesn't mean you can lead. You are either a leader or you aren't. Either way I am still hoping for the upset of the year Saturday night...GBO!

pcshowtime writes:

It is not his fault he has had no coaching. I mean literally we do not have a QB coach on staff. He might have been as good as peyton if cutcliffe could have coached him.

vol98champ writes:

Name me one time Bray has made a play to win us a game. I can name several that probably kept us from winning. Peyton has 47 4th quarter come from behind victories. Also I can name several big arm QB's who are in the unemployment line.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

If none of us had opinions there would be no responses.

If writers did not write there would be no reason for a opinionated response.

Point: Bray has talent
Point: Bray does dumb ignorant things. (I'm sorry but no one here can tell me they would appreciate an idiot hitting a golf-ball into their windshield and not paying for the damage caused).
Point: Writers get paid to write stories about UT

The stats provided are eye opening when looking at Dooleys record and coaching in the SEC. I like the guy, wish he was the best thing since sliced bread, but so far it just aint happening.

arkansasvol1975 writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

It is not his fault he has had no coaching. I mean literally we do not have a QB coach on staff. He might have been as good as peyton if cutcliffe could have coached him.

I agree somewhat. Peyton came because of Cutcliffe and Eli went to Ole Miss for Cutcliff as well. Archie knew how well Cutcliffe molded and teached young quaterbacks. Cutcliffe was also a very good offense coordinator and new how to scheme against all defenses. Bray doesn't seem like he knows how to read defenses, he checks down into the wrong plays or throws it into double or triple coverage as well. I say it all the time, COACHING IS EVERYTHING!

iowavol writes:

in response to arkansasvol1975:

I agree somewhat. Peyton came because of Cutcliffe and Eli went to Ole Miss for Cutcliff as well. Archie knew how well Cutcliffe molded and teached young quaterbacks. Cutcliffe was also a very good offense coordinator and new how to scheme against all defenses. Bray doesn't seem like he knows how to read defenses, he checks down into the wrong plays or throws it into double or triple coverage as well. I say it all the time, COACHING IS EVERYTHING!

Arkyvol, move back home. You're hanging out over there has warped your memory and your ability to write a coherent sentence. You have no idea exactly why Peyton came to UT. If memory serves me better than you, Peyton had to convince Eli not to follow him to UT so he could make his own mark without having to compete with Petyon's records. I do know that Peyton has a lot of respect for Fulmer and Cutcliff.

Bray does check down and will hit a third receiver plenty of times. That's why ZR is getting so much attention. But, he is a gunslinger and gunslingers believe they can thread a needle from 50 yards away. His confidence is both his problem and his advantage.

Lastly, you are correct about coaching being everything. I'm questioning how much Chaney is infecting Bray with love of the long ball. We have guys open for first downs yet we continue to go for the long ball.

kazoo writes:

I like Bray, and he's had to carry a big load with our lousy defense--but he doesn't seem to be much of a leader. Never see much fire from the guy in the way we saw it from Casey Clausen.

PUL4VOLS writes:

Based on his body of work so far; unless we see a huge progression in the Bama, SC and final four; he will not be chosen high in the NFL draft. He is not ready for the big time. One more year would be great for him. If he goes this coming spring, it will be a later round. On the other side, if he comes back and they have a better season next year, he would be much more prepared. As for the losing, it goes with the territory the Vols have trod the past four years. It is not fun, not popular and needs to change. This year there will not be big changes but who knows what the final record will be? In any case, barring injury, Tyler Bray will be the starting qb for the Tennessee Volunteers, like him, hate him, egg him if you are that rednecked but you will be seeing him and his skills out there.

arkansasvol1975 writes:

in response to iowavol:

Arkyvol, move back home. You're hanging out over there has warped your memory and your ability to write a coherent sentence. You have no idea exactly why Peyton came to UT. If memory serves me better than you, Peyton had to convince Eli not to follow him to UT so he could make his own mark without having to compete with Petyon's records. I do know that Peyton has a lot of respect for Fulmer and Cutcliff.

Bray does check down and will hit a third receiver plenty of times. That's why ZR is getting so much attention. But, he is a gunslinger and gunslingers believe they can thread a needle from 50 yards away. His confidence is both his problem and his advantage.

Lastly, you are correct about coaching being everything. I'm questioning how much Chaney is infecting Bray with love of the long ball. We have guys open for first downs yet we continue to go for the long ball.

You must be remembering something else then. I remember seeing Archie Manning in an interview stating the reason both his sons went to either school was solely on coach Cutcliffe's ability to turn out great QB's. Fulmer had very little to do with Peyton coming to UT. Go reas Eli's Bio on Jockbio.com and get back with me.....

And for the check down issue, seem him plenty of time check to a pass on 3rd and 1 only to go 3 and out. Or check down into a run play and run it right at where the blitz is coming from. Bray just cant read defenses.

And last lastly, think you have been hanging around too much in the corn fields in Iowa or whatever yall yankee's have up there.

GoVols_16 writes:

Ohhhh Casey Clausen, how I miss you.

JayTee writes:

Dooley is as immature as Bray when he comments about what Bray does as being funny. He joked about him missing the garbage can with the beer bottles.

You can't fix stupid.

volcop writes:

Dooley should have benched him in the KY game last year. He clearly did not want to win and did not "lead" his team.

volcop writes:

in response to arkansasvol1975:

I agree somewhat. Peyton came because of Cutcliffe and Eli went to Ole Miss for Cutcliff as well. Archie knew how well Cutcliffe molded and teached young quaterbacks. Cutcliffe was also a very good offense coordinator and new how to scheme against all defenses. Bray doesn't seem like he knows how to read defenses, he checks down into the wrong plays or throws it into double or triple coverage as well. I say it all the time, COACHING IS EVERYTHING!

Peyton came to UT because Ole Miss was on probation at that time

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