Tennessee Vols Football: What Took So Long for Tyler Bray To Be the Starting QB?

Joel Barker@joelabarkerSenior Writer INovember 1, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Tyler Bray #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers chased by teammates Stephon Gilmore #5 and Cliff Matthews #83 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you have watched the Vols play over the past month, you realize there has not been much to write about. A pretty good first team with virtually no one to back them up, that plays well for a half before the lack of depth shows up and they get plastered in the second half. 

It's been the same old routine for most of the season. 

Then came last Saturday. 

The script was going along just as it has for most of the season. Tied 10-10 at halftime, before Matt Simms fumbles on the first possession of the second half leading to South Carolina scoring the go-ahead touchdown. 

Simms has been getting drilled behind center all season long because there's a whole lot of youth and nowhere near enough experience on the offensive line. The junior has been effective at times, and "Crompton-circa-2008"-like the rest of the time.

The bottom line is Matt Simms is just not good enough to make a difference on an offense that has struggled mightily. Has he been adequate? Sure. Has he been decent? You bet. Has be been awful? Not really. Has he done enough to keep the starting quarterback job at Tennessee? Not even close. 

That's not to say that Tyler Bray will step in and become Peyton Manning. That's not even to say that Bray will experience the limited success that Simms had occasionally. But it's clearly time for a change. 

Bray is a true freshman who has looked every bit the part at times in backup duty this season. There have been glimpses of great potential—he throws a beautiful deep ball, seems fairly accurate and has moved the offense well. Of course, there was also the pick-six he threw on Saturday. 

If you are looking for a reason for Bray to be named the starting quarterback, look no further than what happened after the pick-six. Bray stood in the pocket and made rocket-like throws all over the field on Saturday. He actually moved the offense. There were big moments and big plays with Bray at the helm. 

This is not to say that the Vols will win out with their new "Savior" behind center. No. Chances are we'll still see some of Matt Simms in relief of the true freshman. Chances are there will be another loss or two this season as well. But at the very least, a true freshman is going to get some valuable experience over the coming weeks. 

One should not diminish how that experience will help Tyler Bray. 

That's been my reasoning for being on "Team Bray" all season long. Let him get in there, take his lumps and be the guy next season. Of course, the downside to that has been Bray's 6'6", 190-pound frame getting mangled because of the aforementioned offensive line struggles. 

But even Dooley admitted at his weekly press conference today, "The more he [Bray] plays, the more he'll grow as a QB." 

If Bray's small successes and occasional glimpses of potential are any indication, that experience could very well be the key to big orange happiness over the next couple of years.