Matt Simms ready to go as UT's new quarterback

Matt Simms ready to go as UT's new quarterback

October 11th, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Sep4, 2010 UT quarterback Matt Simms plays in the game against UT Martin at Neyland Stadium.

KNOXVILLE - There was Matt Simms, walking over to meet a group of media after a Tennessee football practice for the first time in nearly a year.

The senior might be the Volunteers' new starting quarterback, but that position is anything but new to him.

Simms started UT's first eight games of last year before Tyler Bray replaced him early in the second half of the Vols' loss at South Carolina. With Bray sidelined for an estimated six weeks with a broken thumb on his throwing hand suffered in the loss to Georgia, Simms reassumes his position as the leader of UT's offense.

"I think the biggest thing that's helped me this year so far is I've tried my best to prepare like I've been the starter and I think that helped me perform the way I did against Georgia when I came in like that," Simms said after Tuesday morning's practice. "Now it's just continuing to do that and obviously doing a little bit more now.

"I think everyone kind of realizes that this isn't my first rodeo. I played in a lot of big games last year, and obviously I'm not afraid to get hit. I'm just looking forward to it, looking forward to the experience. It's a tough position for all of us, and we've just got to focus and win our first SEC game."

Simms completed four of the six passes he threw on a desperation drive against the Bulldogs, including a fourth-down completion to tight end Mychal Rivera that set up Simms' 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Simms, who was sacked 28 times last season, completed 58 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and eight interceptions last year, when UT went 2-6.

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Tailback Tauren Poole (hamstring strain) was limited during Tuesday's practice, and he exercised on the side during the portion of practice open to the media. The senior remains day to day.

Middle linebacker Austin Johnson and defensive tackle Daniel Hood, two defensive starters, were in red non-contact jerseys.

Bray was present at practice with his right arm in a sling.

"He's not having surgery, it just heals," coach Derek Dooley said. "The only reason he's got that sling on is because they want him to elevate it. Tyler admittedly is too lazy to walk around and elevate it, so we put him in a sling to force the elevation."

Freshman linebacker A.J. Johnson made his media debut after practice.

For more coverage from Tuesday's practice as Tennessee prepares to host top-ranked LSU on Saturday afternoon, check out Wednesday's Times Free Press or follow Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter.