By Matt Dixon
KNOXVILLE - Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray said he played just "OK" in his first college start Saturday night against Memphis.
The Southeastern Conference gave him a little more credit.
Monday, Bray was named the SEC freshman of the week for his performance in the Volunteers' 50-14 victory.
Bray threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns in the first half. He finished the game 19-of-33 for 325 yards with the five touchdowns and no interceptions.
"It was exciting," Bray said. "Just tried to keep calm as usual and just stayed relaxed and just let the rest of the guys on the field help me out."
Bray's laid-back personality has surprised some. UT coach Derek Dooley sees that as a positive but believes it can lead to problems.
"I think that personality is a strength in a lot of ways because he doesn't get fazed. Now it drives you nuts sometimes," Dooley said at his news conference Monday. "I think he's one of those guys, he's got a lot of confidence, and that's a great quality. Now what comes with that is sometimes guys like that have to experience some heavy failures to learn."
Dooley said some players have to make mistakes on the field before they finally believe what coaches are telling them. But for now, Bray has impressed the coach with his skills.
"I think he's just an instinctive thrower. He has a good feel for the rush and where the breakdowns are starting to occur," Dooley said. "He has an ability to get rid of it quickly, which you need to have when you play quarterback to avoid negative plays, and I think he has a good feel for where to play the ball."
Tennessee has had trouble stopping opponents' passing attacks all year. The Vols rank ninth in the SEC in pass defense, giving up 240 yards through the air per game.
Against Memphis the Vols were forced to play zone coverage because of their inability to match up with the Tigers' wide receivers.
"On defense, we really struggled playing man-to-man coverage, and you saw it the first drive," Dooley said. "Early in the game, we had to just quit playing man because we couldn't cover their guys."
The Vols were without three cornerbacks- Marsalis Teague (toe), Art Evans (suspension) and Naz Oliver (ACL).
"We just struggle at playing man-to-man," Dooley said. "You've got to have a lot of guys who can run and cover, and we don't really have that on our team right now. We're just thin. We don't have a lot of guys back there."
Rebels D-line tough
Ole Miss has one of the best defensive lines in the SEC and has been productive containing running games and getting pressure on quarterbacks.
"The big thing you notice on their defense is they've gotten 25 sacks and their two interior guys, I would say, are playing as well as anybody in the league," Dooley said.
One of those is nose tackle Jerrell Powe. The 6-foot-2, 320 pound senior has 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season.
"One of the best in the SEC," Vols tailback Tauren Poole said of the Rebels' front four. "I watched some of them last night, and I think 57, Powe, he's probably the best D-tackle in the SEC."
Contact Matt Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6273.