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UT’s Chaney Says Bray Still Iffy

When the season began, most in the media expected Vanderbilt to win somewhere between two and four games.  Most in the media expected Tennessee to win either six or seven contests. 

In other words, this weekend’s matchup wasn’t supposed to mean very much.  But, oh, does it.  Vandy can become bowl eligible with a win and it can slam the door on UT’s bowl hopes.  That’d be a heckuva twofer on Nashville’s West End.

The key to the game will likely be Vol quarterback Tyler Bray who’s trying to work his way back into the starting line-up after breaking his thumb in October.  Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney doesn’t sound excited by the progress he’s seen:

“As you watch a kid who hasn’t thrown a football for four or five weeks, which you would expect, there are times when he looks okay, times when he looks really rusty — and you worry about those things.  I don’t know what the rest of the week is going to add up to right now.  He’s in and out.  He looks good, okay.  Sometimes he doesn’t look so good.  It’s an iffy situation for us as we approach every day right now. … We’re just trying to get through it.”

It’s hard to imagine Tennessee trying to get through it without starting Bray on Saturday.  His presence might give a floundering offense a quick injection of confidence.  That is if he’s not too rusty or in too much pain to pass the ball accurately.

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SEC Headlines – 11/17/11 Part One

1.  Will Muschamp’s first signing class didn’t have the star power of previous Florida classes, but the class has looked pretty good in action.

2.  The Gator Bowl is the most likely landing spot for UF (which means there’s a slim chance they might be paired with Penn State).

3.  Georgia’s defense has gone from a weakness to a strength…

4.  And turnovers have been a big reason why.

5.  Joker Phillips wishes his team could create more big plays.  (In the perfect timing category, we broke down each SEC school’s Big Play Potential yesterday… and the Wildcats landed dead last in our rankings.)

6.  The Kentucky basketball team appears to be in good hands with Marquis Teague running the point.

7.  Despite the loss of Marcus Lattimore, Steve Spurrier could still lead South Carolina to a 10-win season.

8.  Bruce Ellington plans to return to the Gamecock basketball team on November 27th, the day after USC’s football team plays Clemson.

9.  Tyler Bray’s thumb injury is forcing Tennessee to experiment with the Pistol formation.

10.  The Volunteers’ platoon of punters hasn’t turned out so well.

11.  Wesley Johnson has been a constant on Vanderbilt’s offensive line.

12.  Yesterday, James Franklin wasn’t interested in talking about the arrest of his one of his backup safeties on felony burglary and robbery charges.

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Dooley Says Bray “Not Even Close” To Where He Was Pre-Injury

Derek Dooley isn’t saying one way or the other whether Tyler Bray will play against Vanderbilt on Saturday.  But he is making one point very clear — if Bray does play, he won’t be 100%:

“He’s not even close to what he was before he got injured — not even close.  He’s got a broken thumb, so you can’t grip the ball and throw it the way you do when you don’t have a broken thumb.  It’s going to take some time, guys.  It’s like everything around here: We want immediate fixes and his thumb is not fixed.

You don’t just put magic serum on it and he can go throw like he did five weeks ago.  It will come.  I don’t know if it’s be this week.”

I don’t know about a serum, but maybe a little Daffy’s Elixir would help.

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SEC Headlines – 11/16/11 Part Two

1.  Florida’s injury list keeps getting longer.

2.  Charlie Weis says he’s not going to use Trey Burton as a jack-of-all-trades next year.

3.  Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is focused on championships, not individual honors.

4.  Mark Richt’s offseason moves appear to have worked.

5.  Injuries are cutting into Kentucky’s defense.  (Obvious one-liner: What Kentucky defense?)

6.  The basketball Cats showed off some scary potential last night… and everyone but John Calipari seems willing to admit it.

7.  South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore is expected to finally have surgery on his injured knee this week.

8.  With The Citadel visiting Columbia on Saturday, Steve Spurrier has reminded his team of the Bulldogs 38-35 upset of the Cocks back in 1990.

9.  Derek Dooley may wait until pregame warm-ups before deciding if Tyler Bray will play on Saturday.

10.  Tennessee’s coach is using a new motivational tool with his team — a ceramic orange dog.

11.  Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers sees some similarities between himself and little brother Jordan… who’s leading an improved Vanderbilt offense.

12.  Commodore receiver Jordan Matthews is making a name for himself.

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SEC Headlines – 11/14/11 Part One

1.  Florida players — on-hand for early meeting yesterday morning — were told that 8-12 plays are the difference between Gator wins and Gator losses.

2.  Billy Donovan’s 7th-ranked squad will get a test from #3 Ohio State tonight in Los Angeles.

3.  Isaiah Crowell racked up the yards while Georgia was in “milk mode,” running out the clock against Auburn.

4.  Naturally, just as folks in the Peach State are starting to feel good again, their underclass players begin weighing their NFL plans.

5.  This writer has a few reasons why Kentucky fans should cut Joker Phillips some slack.

6.  John Calipari’s Cats battle Kansas at Madison Square Garden tonight.

7.  It looks like this year’s South Carolina-Clemson game will feature two ranked teams… a real rarity in the series.

8.  Darrin Horn isn’t concerned with when Bruce Ellington might return from football duty.

9.  Derek Dooley isn’t going to make his Tennessee team watch tape of last weekend’s bludgeoning at the hands of Arkansas.

10.  While the head coach won’t say so, all signs point to Tyler Bray returning as UT’s quarterback against Vanderbilt on Saturday.

11.  Vandy is preparing as if Bray will play… and they want to bring plenty of pressure.

12.  The basketball Commodores will try to bounce back from a loss to Cleveland State when they host Bucknell tonight.

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UT’s Bray Tweets He’ll Be Back Soon; Dooley Not So Sure

If you read this site on a regular basis, you know that we’re anti-Twitter when it comes to college athletes.  With a few keystrokes they can damage their own reputations and — in extreme circumstances — tear down a whole program with their 140-character blasts.  (Ask Butch Davis about Twitter’s effect on his career and North Carolina’s program.)

Well, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is the latest to put his foot — or would it be fingers? — in his mouth with a tweet he posted last night:


“Thumb is feeling a lot better.  Thanks to volnation for all your support ill be back soon maybe sooner than everyone thinks…”


And like that, hopes were raised across the Volunteer State.  But his coach dismissed his quarterback’s tweet today.

“It’s going the same as we always thought,” Derek Dooley said.  ”I mean, it’s really hard to tell because he’s in a cast.  Somebody said he tweeted something.  He’s not a doctor, he’s a 19-year-old guy.”

Bray broke his thumb against Georgia earlier this month and was initially expected to be out at least until Tennessee’s regular-season finale against Kentucky.

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UT’s Bray Has Plate Inserted Into Hand; No Impact On Recovery Time

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray had a metal plate inserted into his hand today to help his broken thumb heal properly, but the procedure is not expected to slow his recovery time.  Bray’s thumb — broken two Saturdays ago against Georgia — is expected to take about six weeks to heal.

“They have to let the swelling go down and the plate is in only so the bone doesn’t grow, so it doesn’t heal crooked,” Derek Dooley said today.  “The plate’s only to help the healing.  The scar tissue heals but it can move.  If it moves and then it heals, then you’ve got a crooked thumb.  We certainly don’t want that with our quarterback.”

Maybe he should have asked for the Skywalker Special (at left).

Bray was leading the SEC in passer rating before the injury.  He had thrown 14 touchdowns against just 2 interceptions on the season.

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UT’s Simms: “This Isn’t My First Rodeo”

Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms — thrust back into action by the broken thumb on Tyler Bray’s throwing hand — says he feels ready to play against top-ranked LSU this weekend:

“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 games.”

Simms was the Vols’ starter last year as UT nearly upset LSU in Baton Rouge.  “I did an interview with someone in the summer and they asked me who was the one team I would love to go against.  I said LSU, and I got what I wished for.”

Saturday, he may come to regret making that wish.

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UT’s Bray Out Six Weeks With Broken Thumb; Simms Up Next

Be careful what you wish for.

Tennessee backup quarterback Matt Simms made it clear last season that he didn’t want to be a second-stringer and now it looks like he’s going to be getting another chance to play.  First up?  LSU.  Then?  Alabama.

Good luck with all that.

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray — who was leading the SEC’s highest-rated passing offense — suffered a broken thumb against Georgia on Saturday and is expected to miss six weeks.  This for a team that had already lost star receiver Justin Hunter to a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago.

Late in Saturday’s 20-12 loss, Bray’s follow-through on a pass brought his hand directly into contact with a Bulldog defender’s facemask.  He attempted on more fluttering pass before leaving the game for good.

With LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, MTSU, Arkansas and Vanderbilt the next six games on the schedule, it’s likely that the Vols’ record over that stretch would have been no better with Bray than with Simms.

Tennessee coaches now must decide who their #3 quarterback will be — Nash Nance or freshman hotshot Justin Worley.  The latter was expected to redshirt this year, thus giving him two years’ separating from Bray.  But seeing how Alabama’s defense has injured three quarterbacks in the past two weeks, the Vols better have a plan in case Simms goes down next.

Ironically, Simms took a beating during the 2010 season before giving way to Bray who bested Memphis, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.  Now Simms is being called from the bullpen to once again face the heart of order when it comes to UT’s schedule. 

That brings us back to where we started — be careful what you wish for.

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Herbstreit Intrigued By UF/UT Matchup

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit will be in Tallahassee on Saturday night for the major showdown between #1 Oklahoma and #5 Florida State… but earlier in the day he’ll be keeping track of what’s going on down US-19. 

Like most folks around the SEC, Herbstreit views Saturday’s Florida-Tennessee game as a chance for both programs to prove where they stand on their road back to national prominence.

“Man alive, Tyler Bray is lights out.  This guy doesn’t throw many incompletions, he doesn’t make many mistakes.  Right now he has seven touchdowns and hasn’t thrown a pick.  He has (Da’Rick) Rogers on the outside to go with (Justin) Hunter.  They look like old school Tennessee wide receivers where they are long and lean and athletic and get downfield in a hurry…

I still think (Tennessee) is a year or two away with Derek Dooley, at least at the beginning of the year I felt that way, I thought maybe some of their inexperience would come into play against Cincinnati, where they might be peeking ahead to Florida.  This is where we’re going to find out, is Tennessee really this improved, or is it because of who they’ve played?  Same with Florida…

(Florida) lost so many guys in the secondary from a year ago… this will be their first real test.  In a game like this where Tyler Bray has had a lot of success getting the ball downfield, how will those corners hold up?  Will Florida be able to get pressure, to disrupt the rhythm, which not many people have been able to do against Bray?

I want to see if Will Muschamp, who’s probably about as creative as any coach you’re going to find because of his days with Nick Saban, is he able to rely on the defensive front where he doesn’t have to leave those corners out there by themselves, or is he going to have to get pretty creative with his blitz package to try to disrupt Tyler Bray and what they are doing?”

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Bray and ex-Gator coach will be featured in a film breakdown segment during ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday morning.

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