KNOXVILLE - Tennessee's Tyler Bray still is figuring out as he goes what it takes to be a Southeastern Conference quarterback in a number of areas. He's in the infancy of his career, after all, according to his coaches.
In addition to learning more of the playbook, reading more complex defensive schemes and developing the leadership to run an offense, Tennessee's 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback also is realizing the level of work ethic required by his position.
"It's a normal progression, I think, and I'm comfortable with where he's at," Volunteers offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said before last week's Big Orange Caravan stop in Chattanooga. "I have not seen anything that would lead you to believe that that is an issue.
"You're dealing with a freshman. I would compare all the freshmen in the country to him, and you tell me how many of them are diehard competitors that haven't made some mistakes along the way."
Developing fierce competitiveness might come with time as Bray matures. His physical ability never has been a question, as he demonstrated during the latter half of his freshman season.
"Ultimately how good he is," UT head coach Derek Dooley said after spring practice, "is just going to be based on how much commitment he has to being good."
Bray and the Vols' offense made strides during spring practice, individually as well as overall. The group is projected to start nine players in their second year on campus.
"We evaluate everything individually," Chaney said. "Is this player doing better? Is this player doing that? And then collectively you try to put it together in those scrimmages. Sometimes it's a little more difficult, so to say we've done a lot of things great from point A to point B, I don't know.
"There's been development and improvement throughout our offense, which I'm pleased with. We'll try to glue it all together when we get there in the fall."
The waiting game
Dooley and his staff have had a full month to dissect and analyze the Vols' performances during spring practice, but they still are awaiting results on how the team did in the classroom this semester after final exams ended early last week.
"All the grades sort of periodically come in, and we'll see," Dooley said last week. "We had some goals as a team, and hopefully we'll show some improvement from the fall semester and we'll see where we land."
It's the same situation for the 20 freshmen expected to arrive in June for the first term of summer school and beginning of offseason workouts as they wait for final high school transcripts. Dooley said he's hopeful that all of those players will make it into school, but that might not be known for a while.
Four players from the 2010 recruiting class didn't qualify academically, and defensive end Martaze Jackson, who was a linebacker when he arrived on campus, didn't learn he was a qualifier until three weeks into August's preseason camp.
Dooley said he thought the 2011 signees were in good shape "for the most part, but they're in the same boat as our players. This is where a lot of stuff happens in the next three weeks for our signees."
Safety Eddrick Loften, a four-star player from UT's 2010 signing class who didn't qualify last year, might be the biggest question mark. Instead of attending junior college or prep school, he sat out a year and attempted to gain a qualifying test score, thus making this attempt his third.