KNOXVILLE — Some of the math confuses Derek Dooley, and Tyler Bray likes a different method of measuring his improvement.
But however they want to put it, both the University of Tennessee football coach and his sophomore quarterback feel Bray is in a good place on his path of progress entering the season opener against Montana on Saturday.
"You want a guy to be perfect, and that will never happen," Dooley said after Tuesday morning's practice. "Has he progressed? Yes. Are we disappointed in him? No, not by any stretch. Now we've just got to go out and play now to see where we are."
Bray does hope to raise his completion rate to 70-75 percent after completing less than half (35 of 75) of his passes in the three camp scrimmages, but the calm California kid grades his own individual performance more by feel than numbers.
"That's a tough question to answer," he said when asked if he was where he wanted to be. "Just knowing everything that's going on, it's not necessarily the stats. [It's] more comfort level, reading everything and knowing where people are supposed to be. As a whole offense, we've gotten there."
Quarterbacks are judged ultimately on production, but the question with Bray all offseason has been his mental capacity and investment in continuing to improve on his late-season surge as a freshman last year.
Dooley specifically called for Bray to become more consistent in his everyday approach after the Vols' second camp scrimmage, and though Bray said in his usual deadpanned delivery that he intentionally keeps his routine the same for game preparation and practice, Dooley noted the quarterback's improvement in that area.
"I think he's done a very good job of working at it," Dooley said. "If he continues that pace, I'm hoping the results will show. I think it's just his demeanor. He hasn't shown the mental fatigue of the day-to-day work, if that makes sense, and that's a maturity thing. It's something you have to condition your mind.
"We lift weights and work our muscles and our muscles grow, but if you don't work your mind and your brain, it doesn't grow. Your brain will grow. You get more mental stamina and you learn more, but you've got to go condition it."
There have to be some tangible measurements, however. Though the NCAA's formula for quarterback rating is simpler than what the NFL uses, Dooley looks more at yards per attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio.
"I don't understand the rating," Dooley joked. "I'm not smart enough to figure it out, so I create something that's pretty simple. If I go and say, 'Tyler, your quarterback rating is 108, we've got to get it up,' how? Really, do you all know the answer? I don't know. I'm sure it's a good indicator, but I don't know how to [prove] it."
For the record, Bray's passing efficiency rating last season was 142.7, which put him 31st nationally and seventh in the Southeastern Conference. That number highlights yards, completions, attempts, touchdowns and interceptions, but Dooley prefers to let those statistics stand alone. Bray averaged 8.3 yards per attempt last season with 18 touchdowns and interceptions.
"The one I like to see is what are his yards per attempts," Dooley said. "I'm really talking about how well you throw the football. Over the years, if you look at yards per attempt and touchdowns to interceptions, those two things to me speak about, 'Is the quarterback any good or anything?'
"That's not taking into account quarterbacks that are designed to run the ball. You've got a different way to analyze those guys. Yards per attempt and touchdowns to interceptions generally hold that, 'Hey, if you've got good numbers at those two spots, you're playing pretty good ball.'"
Regardless of the math, that's how the Vols want Bray to play.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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