Simms ahead of Bray as Vols’ likely starting QB

Matt Simms’ experience managing an offense appears to be giving
him the edge in Tennessee’s quarterback competition.

With one week of the Volunteers’ fall camp left, the junior who
spent a year at Louisville and another at a junior college, is
poised to become the team’s starter over freshman Tyler Bray when
Tennessee begins preparing for the season opener against
Tennessee-Martin next week.

”It’s the ability to process the situation, get the play, spit
it out, distribute it to 10 people, line them up, get the motion
and then here comes the play. It’s a whole-managing-the-offense
deal,” Dooley said of what distinguished Simms from Bray.

Both players have displayed strong arms, completing long
touchdown passes. In the team’s first two fall scrimmages, Simms
combined to go 20-for-43 for 315 yards, and Bray was 27-for-50 for
399 yards.

Stick both quarterbacks into situations that test their
game-management skills, like needing a touchdown late in the fourth
quarter to win or trying to run out the clock, and it’s a different
story.

The Vols practiced those situations during a third scrimmage on
Saturday; Simms managed the offense with confidence and Bray
succumbed to what Dooley called ”freshmanitis.”

”I’m not here to beat up Tyler,” Dooley said. ”But we put him
in about nine different situations where you’ve got to go win the
game or not screw it up, and that’s tough on a true freshman.
Matt’s experience is what’s helped him. This is where you really
see it.”

Neither quarterback had fumbled the ball in the first two
scrimmages. Simms had a pass tipped for an interception on
Saturday, while Bray gave up three or four interceptions, Dooley
said.

Both Simms and Bray participated in spring practice after
enrolling at Tennessee in January.

The two quarterbacks aren’t Dooley’s only options after senior
Nick Stephens decided to transfer in the spring, but they are his
best ones. The Vols also have freshman Nash Nance, who enrolled in
the summer and is several months behind Bray in learning the
Tennessee system.

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Simms has had plenty of experience as a
starting quarterback – just not at the Division I level. He
attempted only 10 passes in two games at Louisville his freshman
year, completing four for 39 yards and an interception. For his
sophomore year, he transfered to El Camino Community College in
California, where he completed 159 of 269 for 2,204 yards, 17
touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Franklin Lakes, N.J., native and son of former New York
Giants quarterback Phil Simms has spent most of the year practicing
with the first-team offense. He has built a rapport with other
likely starters, including senior tight end Luke Stocker and senior
wide receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore.

”The next step is just to continue to improve my decision
making. That’s always a key for any quarterback,” Simms said.

Bray, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound Kingsburg, Calif., native, led
Kingsburg High School to a 13-0 season while completing 185-of-302
for 3,321 yards and 41 touchdowns. However, he has had difficulty
adapting to the speed and complexity of the college game.

On Saturday he struggled with managing the clock, avoiding sacks
and calling the right play in the hurry-up offense.

”It’s the ability to process the situation,” Dooley said.
”It’s not just like (Bray) made a good decision versus he made a
bad one, it’s a whole managing the offense deal. It’s hard.”