It has been a long time since the Tennessee Volunteers were relevant in the college football world. The program has not won a bowl game since 2007 and missed the bowl season all together last year. They went from being one of the most respected programs in the SEC to becoming one of the laughing stocks of the conference.
Current head coach Derek Dooley has yet to earn a victory against a top 25 team and the Volunteers are ranked for the first time in his coaching tenure.
What a difference a year makes, as Tennessee is now once again relevant after beginning the season 2-0. The ESPN College Gameday crew is outside Neyland Stadium, as the program is hosting the Florida Gators for a chance to make a huge statement that this program is back and soon to be in the college football spotlight.
But while this is a huge game for the team overall, it may be even bigger for quarterback Tyler Bray. He is a junior, and he seems to have all the tools to be a top quarterback in the country, but has yet to take that next step in his career.
He has a live arm. He is confident in himself, has terrific size at 6'6", 215 pounds and is hard to stop once he gets rolling.
The problem is that he has yet to be consistent, completing less than 60 percent of his passes his first two seasons and not making enough plays for the Volunteers offense to win football games.
This year, although we are only two weeks into the season, Bray is completing a remarkable 73 percent of his passes for 643 yards and six touchdowns. Most importantly, he has yet to throw an interception.
But now will be his chance to show that he has truly arrived.
The Florida Gators return 10 starters from a defense that was ranked third in the SEC last season in pass coverage. In last year’s meeting, Bray threw for 288 yards, but completed less than 55 percent of his passes and threw crucial interceptions as well.
This is a Florida defense that really gets after it, allowing less than 30 percent of third down conversions to begin the season. The unit has also produced 12 tackles for loss, four sacks and only three red zone touchdowns in the first two games.
We have heard about Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and Aaron Murray of Georgia, as Bray has been considered more of an afterthought in this conference. If the junior quarterback can rise to the occasion, he should not only join elite company, but also improve his current draft stock heading into the 2013 NFL draft.
Bray should not be considered the next Peyton Manning, but the talent is there for him to become much better than what he is now.
The stage is set; it is now up to him to decide what type of quarterback he is going to be.
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