Tennessee Volunteers Football: How Tyler Bray Can Contend for the 2012 Heisman
You have to go back 16 years to find a "pocket passer" from the SEC that won the Heisman Trophy. In 1996, Danny Wuerffel won the University of Florida's first Heisman since his head coach Steve Spurrier's thirty years prior.
Since then, two SEC quarterbacks have won the Heisman—Tim Tebow and Cam Newton—but both were considered "dual-threat" quarterbacks.
The Southeastern Conference has won 11 Heismans in total. However, the University of Tennessee has yet to produce a winner. Tennessee fans will argue about the 1997 Heisman race for the rest of time, but no Volunteer has been awarded the trophy.
As we get ready for 2012, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray enters as one of the most interesting players in the country. He has all the measurables of a marquee quarterback but is still a relative unknown on the national stage.
Here are six ways Bray will be able to contend for the Heisman this fall.
Bray Must Stay Healthy
Tyler Bray was putting together a great 2011 season prior to a broken thumb that cost him half of the season. Bray hit his hand on the helmet of a Georgia defender in a 20-12 loss.
Before the injury, Bray was having an All-Conference caliber season. He's shown the ability to put up big numbers, but he must stay healthy to have any shot at contending for the Heisman Trophy.
Can Bray stay healthy for an entire season? That will not only determine his status in contending for the Heisman, but also the direction of Tennessee's season.
Wide Receivers Must Stay Healthy
While staying healthy is a must for Tyler Bray, it is also a must for his wide receivers.
Bray put up fantastic numbers through two games in 2011 with a full complement of weapons to throw to. In a 45-23 victory over Cincinnati, Bray threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
On the Vols' opening offensive drive against Florida, Justin Hunter went down with a season-ending knee injury, and the fate of the Tennessee season completely changed.
With a healthy group of receivers all season long, Bray will have no shortage of stars to throw to. If it happens, Bray will have a chance to put up Heisman-type numbers.
Vols Must Pull Off Upsets
Tyler Bray won't be able to win the Heisman by putting up huge numbers against only weaker opponents. He will have to shine when the lights are the brightest and lead Tennessee to wins in games in which they aren't favored.
There will be no shortage of opportunities for Bray.
Tennessee will be in the national spotlight when the Vols take on Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Bray must not only take advantage of the huge audience and national stage, but he must also have huge nights to put himself in the race.
Win the SEC East
It doesn't matter what kind of numbers any player puts up if his team isn't winning games.
Is a player worthy of Heisman consideration if his team isn't competing for a championship? I don't think so. At the very least, his team needs to be playing for the conference championship.
It will be a tough road for Tennessee, with Georgia and South Carolina lurking at the top of the division. Add in Florida and SEC newcomer Missouri, and it will be a major task for the Vols to be playing on championship weekend.
Finish the Season in the Top 15
As was mentioned in the previous slide, Tennessee must be winning games in order for Bray to be in Heisman contention.
If Tyler Bray plays up to his full potential in 2012, the Vols will win more games than many people imagine.
If this happens and the Vols end up in the Top 15 by season's end, Tyler Bray will be in the Heisman discussion, and Derek Dooley will be contending for SEC Coach of the Year.
It's a definite long shot for the Vols to reach this point, but it's a long shot for Bray to be mentioned in the Heisman race as well.
If Tyler Bray is in Heisman contention in 2012, Tennessee fans will be very pleased with the outcome of the season.