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.”