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?
Tyler Bray lights up the majority of opposition defenses. That majority is non-SEC teams.
Of course the SEC opponent is a different matter, given the superior combination of size and speed of the two-deep rosters compared with many other conferences. Thus, it should be expected that Bray’s numbers against SEC foes, and success in terms of Ws and Ls, would be less impressive.
And, they are.
Tyler has started in games against 8 non-league teams and SEC schools alike. On an average per-game basis, Bray throws the ball the same number of times against both types of foes (about 36), but has a far less-impressive completion percentage in the SEC (51% vs 69%). He has thrown twice the number of TD passes (3.8 vs 1.9 per game) against non-league teams, but also has thrown 3 times the number of INTs against SEC schools (0.5 vs 1.5 per game).
Comparisons of passing yards per game is predictable: 340 yards per game against non-SEC schools vs 260 yards per game when facing SEC teams. He has thrown for less than 300 yards in only one non-SEC game – vs Montana (294 yards) – and exceeded the 400-yard mark against two such schools (Cincinnati and Akron).
Against SEC foes, Bray has exceeded 300 yards in only two games: Ole Miss and Kentucky, two of the weakest defenses in the league in recent years. And, he was under the 200-yard mark against Vandy last season.
Most importantly, Tennessee’s W/L record in these games is 7-1 against non-league teams vs a 4-4 mark against the SEC schools.
On top of all that, it is important to consider these comparisons in light of the SEC teams Bray has faced as a starter: twice against Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt; and once against Georgia and Ole Miss.
That means that Tyler Bray has not started against two of the toughest defenses in the league: Alabama and South Carolina. He also didn’t face LSU or Arkansas in 2010 or 2011.
Thus, it could be extrapolated that the comparison of his numbers between SEC and non-SEC schools might even be greater had he faced those schools.
So how could Bray, or perhaps what kind of quarterback could, have a significantly better performance against SEC teams?
Consider Tyler Bray’s rushing yardage stats.
In 8 games against non-SEC foes, Bray’s tally is -64 yards. In 8 games against SEC teams, Bray’s rushing yards total -97 yards.
Both tallies are way in negative territory. This is a direct reflection of the type of QB Bray is: a pocket passer with absolutely no mobility.
Although Tennessee’s run game is gradually improving, it is no where near what is required to be competitive in the SEC. For all of Bray’s prowess as a passer – especially with the wealth of talent he has at WR – a one-dimensional offense, featuring a one-dimensional quarterback, cannot defeat the cream of the SEC, or even the upper half of the league.
So what happens when a quality defense stops Tennessee’s run game? They pin their ears back and have a go at Bray. Tyler doesn’t have the mobility to keep plays alive when such defensive pressure eventually breaks down the Vol offensive line. The result is that Bray has to take more risks with his arm, and thus the incompletions and interceptions go up. And, the losses mount.
All of this was highlighted during the Tennessee-Florida game a couple of weeks ago. Bray started out farily effective, partly because Rajion Neal was having some success running the ball in the first half. But eventually when Florida broke a couple of big plays, the Gator defense became extra motivated, Tennessee panicked, couldn’t run the ball, and Bray was hurried into mistake after mistake.
His pass to nowhere that was called for intentional grounding is a case in point. If Bray possessed the slightest modicum of mobility, he could have bought enough time to legally thrown the ball away instead of killing a drive after stopping the Gators at midfield on a go at fourth down.
The house of cards fell in immediately after that moment.
Tennessee doesn’t need one of the best arms in the land to defeat the non-conference foes.
But they could do with a quarterback having a lesser arm with the mobility to keep the defense honest, even without a stellar rushing attack, to have a better shot at defeating the better SEC teams.
So the Tennessee of 2011-2012, a highly talented football team but one without an adequate rushing attack for the SEC, could perhaps be more successful with a different style quarterback.
As talented and highly touted as is Tyler Bray, he may be the wrong quarterback at the wrong time for the Tennessee Vols.