When Tennessee's coaches assigned starting quarterback Tyler Bray and most of the starting offensive talent to the "Orange" squad for their Orange-White spring exhibition, what they probably had in mind was letting the Vol fans get a good, positive look at their 2011 offense doing good, positive things.
Thanks to an outing by Bray we're going to charitably call "terrible," it didn't exactly work out that way. The Orange side was throttled by the lesser-regarded White team 24-7, with Bray completing just five of his 30 passing attempts against a Tennessee pass defense that ranked 81st in the country last year.
Derek Dooley said the White's physical dominance of the Orange side was "fun to watch," and for a coaching staff that needs a bigger boost from their running game this fall, seeing tailbacks Tauren Poole and Raijon Neal have big days probably was. But Dooley also didn't hide the fact that Bray's day had been a disappointment:
“You know what I said Thursday — if Tyler would have gone 27-of-30 for 300 (yards) I would have said, ‘Yeah, we’re doing good,’ ” Dooley said. “If he would have gone 5-for-30, which is what he did, ‘It’s just the spring game, it doesn’t matter.’Still, there's bad, and then there's 5-for-30 bad. Bray had a nice finish to the season, but much of his success came against the defenses of teams like Memphis and Vanderbilt; a full season's worth of battles against the likes of Alabama and Georgia will be something else entirely. If Bray's already feeling "a little bit confident" about his own abilities -- to the point of completing 16.6 percent of his passes in a spring game -- Tennessee can only hope Saturday's pratfall will do its deserved part to keep that kind of confidence in check.
“There were a lot of reasons he wasn’t on, and it starts with him. I think he went in a little bit confident, feeling good about the matchups, and when you’re not on edge, you’re never going to perform. There were some serious mismatches in protection that I think affected him early, and then once it gets going bad early you’ve got to get that run-game settled in.”