KNOXVILLE — Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley has used the word "journey" multiple times this season when talking about his junior quarterback.
But Tyler Bray is having to undergo a significant course change.
The junior has cost the Volunteers at times this season by trying to press too much, causing him to force throws. There's a combination of explanations that range from Bray's aggressive mentality to inexperience. Yet there's a balance he's still working to harness.
"Tyler's biggest thing is managing the game all the way through it, and he's shown a lot of progress in that," Dooley said Tuesday morning after Tennessee's practice. "I think it's understanding when to make those aggressive throws, when you can take a little risk and understanding when it's absolutely imperative that you don't risk anything. That's work in progress.
"Whatever it is in the game, there's times when you can take some risks, and there's times when you just absolutely can't do it because it'll kill you."
Against Georgia, it killed Bray and the Vols. He forced two first-down plays that ended in turnovers. Bray said last week his focus during the Vols' open date last week was living another down and knowing when to be the gunslinger he is naturally.
"I tried to force too many plays, and it cost us," he said Tuesday. "As a quarterback, you feel like you can make every throw at any time, regardless of if he's triple-covered or not. It takes time to learn, and I'm just trying to learn."
Dooley acknowledged a difficult part of "changing something that's the core of who you are" is the lack of any room for error. One failure erases any amount of previous success. Any improvements in game management or decision-making any quarterback may make is overshadowed by a mistake.
"Tyler's the kind of guy that feels like he needs to make a play," Dooley said. "Some guys are the other way around. They're scared to make a play ... and they're driving you nuts, too.
"I'd rather tone down this kind of guy than [have] the other. He's just got to learn. We've got a lot of weapons on offense, and the biggest thing is especially when you're having success, there's no reason to change."
Dooley has surgery
Dooley joked after practice Tuesday morning that "a little hip issue" was slowing him down, but the pain turned out to be no laughing matter. The coach had surgery on his hip later Tuesday afternoon, Tennessee announced Tuesday night. He will coach the Vols from the coaches' box of Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State on Saturday night.
"I know I'm here and I'm working and nothing's changed so that's all that matters," he said.
According to Tennessee's release, Dooley experienced pain in his right hip for two weeks, and an MRI taken Friday revealed a fracture that required an "immediate need" for surgery. He is expected to "resume normal coaching duties" some time next week depending on consultation. It's unlikely Dooley will be at practice Wednesday and Thursday.
The revolving door that is the Vols' second tailback position continues. Marlin Lane was the first tailback other than Rajion Neal to get a carry against Georgia and finished with eight runs. Devrin Young ran for 14 yards on three second-quarter carries.
"They've probably had two really good weeks of practice that they've had in a while," Dooley said. "Devrin did a good job in the game. We feel good about all three of them."
Lane, who had 22 yards on eight carries, said one of his open-date focuses was "delivering the blow even more" at the point of contact, an area emphasis for all of Tennessee's tailbacks.
"I've been doing good," he said, "but I want to do better just fighting for those extra yards."
Surgery for Croom
Tennessee lost three true freshmen to season-ending injuries in the preseason and added another this week. Receiver Jason Croom wrote on his Twitter account that he was having shoulder surgery today and will move to tight end next season. The reserve had played in three games this season.
"Getting surgery tomorrow on my shoulder," Croom wrote. "Gonna get it done now so I can ball out at my new position next year."
That tweet was deleted, but his second post remained.
"I said I would NEVER put my hand in the ground, but that changed ... here's your newest TE."
At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds already, Croom's move to tight end seemed likely. The Vols lose seniors Mychal Rivera and Ben Bartholomew next year. Tennessee also has no public commitments from any tight ends for the 2013 class.
Linebacker Curt Maggitt was in a noncontact jersey during Tuesday's practice and thus unavailable for post-practice interviews, so he couldn't discuss his lingering turf-toe injury. "He's got to practice," Dooley said Monday. "It's hard to play well if you don't practice." ... Though freshman LaDarrell McNeil's expected move into the staring lineup has generated the most attention in Tennessee's struggling secondary, walk-on JaRon Toney could supplant Eric Gordon as the Vols' nickelback; he worked with the first team Tuesday.
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 ...