Bray better in UT scrimmage, but still needs to improve

Bray better in UT scrimmage, but still needs to improve

August 14th, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley looks on while wide receivers run a drill during a warmup session prior to a team scrimmage Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Photo by Adam Brimer/Knoxville News Sentinel

KNOXVILLE -- The approach was different, and thus was the outcome.

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was crisper managing and running the Volunteers' offense in Saturday night's scrimmage at Neyland Stadium, but there was a still something missing.

"We were a little off in the throwing game," coach Derek Dooley said after the 103-play scrimmage. "I say a little off, we missed a lot of big plays, and we're going to try to be a big-play, explosive pass game. The sync was a little bit off. I didn't think anybody was bad, it's just a matter of that chemistry that's going to come with a new receiving corps."

Bray's numbers (12-of-26 passing, 132 yards, one touchdown and an interception) weren't drastically different from his Tuesday performance. The sophomore ran the offense better, though, after Dooley publicly criticized Bray's poor tempo and inconsistency on Tuesday.

Bray attributed Saturday's faster tempo to a better approach.

"I felt we came out today like it was an actual game," he said. "I mean, it gets hard sometimes. It is fall camp, so you've been coming out here practicing for a while."

Bray hooked up with Da'Rick Rogers for a 4-yard touchdown, and Matt Milton caught an 18-yard scoring pass from backup Matt Simms. Justin Hunter caught four passes for 69 yards, and freshman DeAnthony Arnett had an 80-yard touchdown called back for offensive pass interference.

Though Dooley was happier with Bray's performance from a management standpoint, the second-year coach is still looking for better consistency from his laid-back quarterback.

"I wish Tyler would get a little more consistent in his approach," Dooley said. "He shouldn't have to have a real bad day to get him to want to come in and take it more seriously. That comes with maturity."

Said Bray, "[The bad performance] bothers me for that night, and then you wake up the next morning and it's a new day.

"As an offense afterward ... we talked and said we have to come out next scrimmage and show them that we can actually pay and that we're ready for this season. That last scrimmage wasn't us."

In a sense, Saturday's scrimmage wasn't the Vols' offense under Bray, either. Bray thrived on explosive plays in the pass game late last season, and though one deep threat is back with Justin Hunter, Denarius Moore is now in the NFL.

The Vols did move the ball on Saturday, though it was through sustained drives: four UT drives went longer than seven plays.

"It was an efficient offense, which is not what we've been," Dooley said. "We've been more explosive. We like efficiency -- getting in third-[down]-and-makable -- but then we've got to hit those [big] shots when we have those opportunities."

Given that big plays are a strength for Bray, the improvement in the managing the offense from the huddle to audibles at the line was a positive step. Dooley had talked between scrimmages about making it easier for him, and the Vols did cut out the offense's shifts and motions.

"He was a lot better, and we helped him a little bit, too," Dooley said. "We're starting to get an understanding of when we're pushing [Bray] too much because we don't want to get him uncomfortable. He looked in command."

Said Rogers, "It was a lot of pressure on him, him being the quarterback. Coach Dooley's on him, telling him, 'It's up to you. You and the center create the tempo, how fast the huddle gets set and how fast we get the play and how fast the receivers get out and line up.'

"I think he really took it by the horns today."