Tennessee vs. South Carolina: Tyler Bray Will Prove He's Man to Lead Volunteers

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IOctober 26, 2012

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 13:  Quarterback Tyler Bray #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers rolls out to pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on October 13, 2012 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

Tennessee and South Carolina are two struggling football teams. When they meet this Saturday they will both be looking to right the ship and get themselves back on track.

While I don't necessarily think Tennessee will pull off the upset, I'm looking for quarterback Tyler Bray to show why he was originally a highly-rated NFL prospect and emerge as the leader of this Volunteers' squad.

Tennessee's offense came into this season with a good bit of hype surrounding them. Bray and top receiver Justin Hunter were both being mentioned as possible high picks, but neither of them have come out and produced like they were expected to.

Cordarrelle Patterson, the Volunteers' No. 2 receiver, has stepped up and created some buzz of his own, but the passing game needs to get everyone on the same page.

Bray has all the physical ability in the world. He drives the ball through the tightest of windows and can hit his receiver in stride forty yards down field. 

He's tall and athletic enough to move around in the pocket and has a really nice, natural release that puts a great spin on the ball and allows him to be very accurate.

The only problem is that he isn't always consistent with his footwork and throwing mechanics and sometimes throws off his back foot, which completely eliminates all the ability I just talked about. 

Because of this inconsistency, Bray can get down on himself and let his mistakes pile up. All nine of his interceptions have come in the last five games, with three against Georgia and two last week against Alabama.

Their last three games have come against ranked SEC opponents with good pass rushers, and Bray hasn't made the adjustments necessary to feel the pressure and go through his progression quickly enough to make the right throw.

But he's had plenty of time to watch film and figure out what he needs to do against South Carolina to be successful.

The Gamecocks have a lethal pass rusher in Jadeveon Clowney, but Florida managed to score six offensive touchdowns against them last week, including four passing touchdowns, so Bray at least has an outline of how to approach the game.

With Hunter and Patterson hoping to increase their own draft stock, there's a lot riding on this game. Hunter is a tall, natural athlete with a wide catch radius. Patterson is just as tall as Hunter but has a sturdier build and is more physical and explosive than his counterpart.

Together, they make for a dynamic 1-2 punch. Against South Carolina this week, Bray will finally put everything together and show the assertiveness that his own coaches, and NFL scouts, have been waiting for.

Bray's physical ability is unquestioned, but he needs to figure out a way to be mentally strong and lead his team. At this point, he doesn't have much choice. His team, his season, and his future depend on it.