KNOXVILLE — Even amid all the buildup, Tyler Bray's demeanor remains unchanged.
The Tennessee quarterback said Monday he "never" gets nervous before a game, which is in stark contrast to his offensive coordinator.
"I get nervous because he don't get nervous," Jim Chaney said with a laugh after the Volunteers wrapped up practice Tuesday morning. "I guess that's my job. He says he doesn't get nervous? That's beautiful.
"When I am not nervous before a game, it's time for me to go farm. And I love farming. That's not a knock on farming."
Two knocks on Bray are his inability to finish a season and his lack of games against top-notch defenses. The offseason talk of maturity took hits with two summer incidents involving the law. On a team full of players with something to prove, the skilled junior is no different, especially with Friday night's game in Atlanta against North Carolina State featuring the Wolfpack's playmaking secondary and talented quarterback Mike Glennon.
"We've just got to win," Bray said. "If we win, that's fine with me.
"This has been a long last two weeks. We're not really adding anything. It's just repetition, repetition, getting bored with it, getting monotonous -- we're just ready to play."
Bray, who admitted he "might think about stuff" on the bus ride to a game, said the Vols offense is confident even in the wake of star receiver Da'Rick Rogers' suspension and transfer to Tennessee Tech. Chaney has exuded a similar vibe all August, mostly because most of his starting unit is back and a year older. The coordinator still has his nerves, especially with the unknown of new players.
"I'm more comfortable today than I've been since probably being to Knoxville," Chaney said. "I know what they can and can't do; then it's up to me to put them in the right position to make plays. That's always the exciting thing."
Tennessee and N.C. State have met only twice previously, but coaches Derek Dooley and Tom O'Brien have more history. O'Brien, a former Navy player and Boston College coach, was Virginia's offensive line coach during Dooley's 1987-90 playing career there. Dooley began his career as a walk-on before earning a scholarship.
"He deserved to get a scholarship," O'Brien said. "Derek would catch the ball, he'd get open, he'd make plays for us, and he was always a very smart player. He probably knew everybody's position on the offense.
"He was a leader on that football team that had a lot of leaders."
Though O'Brien wasn't Dooley's position coach, the Vols' third-year coach had a unique perspective on the Wolfpack's sixth-year coach.
"I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him when I was a player," Dooley said, "because I knew he was extremely intelligent. He was an outstanding coach schematically, he was a great motivator -- he was a Marine [so] he was hard-nosed and tough -- and I just really admired him.
"I roomed with all the offensive linemen, so I had a level of respect for him as an outsider, but I also heard all the complaining from the big guys about him. Usually that's probably good when they're complaining a little bit that he's tough on them. Since that time, when I got back into coaching, he's been a real mentor for me. I leaned on him a lot when I was at Louisiana Tech on some of the things he does, because he's had tremendous consistency in all his teams."
Chaney said "everything's status quo" since Rogers' exit.
"We just keep right on rolling," he said.
The Vols are rolling with only two parts of its original talented receiving trio. Rogers, who confirmed "a couple of drug tests" led to his dismissal during a Tuesday news conference in Cookeville, was the most proven of the trio, but Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson don't lack talent. Hunter is coming off a serious knee injury, and junior college transfer Patterson might have a bigger adjustment.
"It's been a complete learning curve," Chaney said. "He's going to go out and make some big plays, he's going to make some blunders, and we fully expect that. We've got a super talented young man that's never been on the field for Tennessee before, and that's exactly what all first-game starters do.
"They're always going to make a few mistakes. We're hoping to minimize that the best we can and let that boy go be a football player. He has demonstrated on video too many times that he's a [darn] talented player."
• Both teams will wear their home jerseys Friday night, meaning Tennessee will be in orange and N.C. State will be in red.
• An eligibility issue will keep N.C. State cornerback C.J. Wilson, a 29-game starter, off the field Friday, but the Wolfpack have been preparing for it. Dontae Johnson will make his first start, but the 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior started the spring game.
"This was something that had nothing to do with C.J.," O'Brien said, "and everything to do with Dontae Johnson and what his abilities are."
• O'Brien said he tried to recruit Tennessee nose tackle Daniel McCullers, who's a Raleigh native, as an offensive lineman, but the 6-foot-7, 360-pound juco transfer "told us to take a hike."
• Dooley said freshman receiver Jason Croom (hamstring) is doubtful for Friday night.
• Tennessee awarded walk-on receiver Jacob Carter a scholarship Tuesday. The 6-foot, 180-pound former standout at Ensworth in Nashville capped an impressive spring practice with a six-catch, 42-yard performance in the Orange and White game. He's a favorite among teammates.
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 ...