Derek Dooley on Vols' first game, the 35-21 win over NC State
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Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray set a personal record last week. It wasn't for completions, yards or touchdown passes.
It was for receivers used.
Bray has never spread the wealth the way he did last Friday night in the Georgia Dome. His completions to 10 different receivers against North Carolina State brought back memories of You Know Who. Peyton Manning completed passes to 12 different receivers in UT's 1997 opener.
Such work is best appreciated by a fellow quarterback.
"I think it's a natural thing," backup quarterback Justin Worley said. "Tyler goes out there and plays phenomenally. To see him throw to 10 different receivers is awesome."
Bray's widespread usage of receivers is just one example of how balanced UT's offense was in a 35-21 victory.
The Vols passed for more than 300 yards and rushed for almost 200. Three different players had 50 yards or more rushing, which might not mean much at Alabama or LSU, but qualifies as headline news at UT.
Not once last season did UT have two players rush for 50 yards or more in the same game. Not even against Montana or Buffalo or Middle Tennessee State.
Tennessee hasn't had three players rush for 50 or more yards since the 2010 season opener. It hasn't had three do it against a BCS opponent since 2006.
That doesn't mean UT's running game has arrived. These Vols will be a pass-first, run-second team, and third-and-3 still might qualify as a passing down. But they at least have more options than last season when getting back to the line of scrimmage was an ongoing challenge.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney took advantage of that against the Wolfpack. He got everyone involved. He also gave opposing defensive coordinators plenty to think about.
Chaney and Bray form a nice partnership. They've been together long enough that, as Bray said in the preseason, he can anticipate what's coming from his play caller. Conversely, Bray gives Chaney so much to work with. No pass play is off-limits — long, short or intermediate. And, based on the season opener, no receiver goes unnoticed.
"Tyler did a really good job of using his reads," said fullback Ben Bartholomew, who caught two passes. "If the first or second read isn't open, he's going to check it down.
"He doesn't play favorites. He's going to throw to the open guy."
Senior Zach Rogers can vouch for that.
Rogers had only two catches against N.C. State, but one was a 72-yard touchdown on which he beat All-American cornerback David Amerson.
During one preseason interview session, Bray was asked about the luxury of throwing to receivers as talented as Justin Hunter, Coraderrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers, who has since been dismissed from the team. While Bray complimented all three, he also made a point of including Zach Rogers as a quality receiver.
Rogers, who is one of UT's fastest players, could figure prominently in UT's plans. Defenses will be so consumed with the task of tracking Hunter and Patterson that Rogers could be open.
And if he's open, he's Bray's favorite receiver.