Tyler Bray Injury: QB's Injury Spells Doom for Derek Dooley's Days in Knoxville

Austin GreenCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2011

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Tyler Bray #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers throws a pass against 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

Tyler Bray's thumb injury sustained Saturday against Georgia spells big trouble for coach Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Volunteers.

Bray had been phenomenal on the season before leaving the game in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 20-12 home loss. One of the best quarterbacks in the nation, Bray has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns, while throwing just two interceptions.

Unfortunately for Tennessee, they have been completely reliant on Bray thus far and his injury kills their chances in the SEC.

Saturday's loss dropped Tennessee to 3-2 (0-2 in SEC play) and is particularly damning as they are about to enter an absolutely brutal stretch of their schedule.

The Volunteers next three games are against No. 1 LSU, at No. 2 Alabama, and No. 15 South Carolina.

Even with their superstar QB healthy, victory would be unlikely. Without Bray at 100 percent, Tennessee is essentially screwed.

Assuming they drop these next three games, the Volunteers would be 3-5 overall and a horrid 0-5 in conference games.

After South Carolina, the Volunteers play Middle Tennessee in a game that they should certainly dominate. The next week, they face more elite competition when they travel to Arkansas to battle the 10th ranked Razorbacks.

Personally, I don't think there's any way the Volunteers win one of those four conference games against ranked opponents. Those four losses would leave them at 0-6 in conference and the calls for Derek Dooley's head will begin.

The coach obviously deserves some leeway given that he took a lackluster squad to a 6-6 finish last year, and it's certainly not his fault that his quarterback got injured before facing their toughest opponents.

But the Tennessee faithful expect to be competitive at all times and an 0-6 record in SEC play is unacceptable.

For Dooley's sake, I hope that Bray's injury isn't too severe. If it is, the coach could be looking for new employment opportunities in the near future.