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Is Tyler Bray the Wrong Type of Quarterback for Tennessee?

Tyler Bray is a prototypical pro-style college quarterback. He is tall, becoming more muscular as he physically matures, and has one of the strongest arms in the nation. But given the strengths, and more importantly the weaknesses of the 2012 Vols (and the 2011 team for that matter), could Bray be the wrong guy for this team?

A heretical thought?

Perhaps not…

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The Quarterbacks: A Full Season, Please

Here is the last installment of our 2012 season preview, where we examine the quarterbacks. Hopefully for 2012, that starts and ends with junior Tyler Bray (#8), because it goes without saying that if Tennessee Vols football is to turn the corner in 2012, it is going to have to have a full season of a healthy Tyler Bray. It was one thing to lose Justin Hunter early last season, but the biggest season-killer was the injury to Bray.

Even with a significant injury, Bray ended up starting seven games and missing ‘only’ five games with a fractured right thumb suffered in the Georgia game. And the interesting part about that was 2011 was the second straight season that Bray did not feature against the best opposition. Thus, it is a reasonable argument to say – as distasteful as it might seem to some – that we really don’t know how good Tyler Bray really is. Or perhaps more directly, we don’t know if Bray is as good as we collectively seem to think he is.

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The Receivers: A Little Depth with Little Experience, but Lots of Promise

Less than a week ago, Vols fans were walking around almost embarrassed regarding the bounty of riches Tennessee possessed at the receiver positions. That changed on Thursday morning when it was announced that junior receiver Da’Rick Rogers was suspended indefinitely due to a violation(s) of team rules. Dooley recently commented that it was “recent events” that led to the decision for suspension. It appears likely that Rogers will never play in an orange jersey again, but nothing has been announced as final at this moment. [UPDATE: It appears that Rogers will transfer to Tennessee Tech.]

Losing a top player is always a tough thing to deal with (note the injuries to Justin Hunter and then Tyler Bray in 2011). But when that player is the ONLY player at a skilled position that has ANY semblance of SIGNIFICANT experience – plus having led the SEC last season with 67 receptions and 1,040 receiving yards – it causes observers to rethink their predicted W-L balance for the upcoming season.

But there is the chemistry factor.

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The Backfield: No Where To Go But Up

The Vols might have to take a somewhat backfield-by-committee approach, looking to improve on last season’s dismal performance (90 yards per game, 2.8 yards per carry, ranked 116th in the nation). Gone is Tauren Poole who had earned to be the Vol workhorse in 2010, achieving 3rd Team All-SEC honors even though he ran behind a freshmen offensive line, but who regressed dramatically last season to the point where everybody was scratching their head while muttering to themselves, “Is it the line, or the running backs? Is it the line, or the running backs?…”

Or perhaps it was because there was no position coach for the running backs.

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The Offensive Line: Coming Into Their Own

Finally, to the offense.

No, we’re not going to address the Da’Rick Rogers soap opera. Yet. Instead, we will begin where you should always begin with: the salt of the earth; the offensive lineman.

Where to begin? Last season, so many expectations were put on this O-Line before any of them stepped on Shields-Watkins Field for the opener. Those expectations were either over-inflated or just simply not achieved in any way, shape, or form. It all depends on how you look at it. One thing is certain – their collective performance was an embarrassment. I don’t know how else to put it.

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The Special Teams: Not So Special So Far

We’re done with the daily defense previews. Now before we move on to the offense – and yes, we’ll get to the Da’Rick-less receivers – let’s peek into the backroom closet where we keep our kickers and returners.

New special teams coach Charlie Coiner comes to Knoxville to lead what is now becoming an old story: a woefully underperforming kicking game compared with the standards set over the last 80 years of Tennessee Vols football. Coiner’s coaching experience related to special teams comes from both the NFL (Bears and Bills) and the college ranks (including LSU and Vanderbilt).

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