August 3, 2012
Coaches, teammates praise Bray
The apology had long ago been delivered.
On Friday, Tyler Bray got back to what he does best; throwing footballs. Tennessee's junior quarterback was arguably the focal point of the Vols' opening practice of pre-season camp on Haslam Field.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder from Kingsburg, Calif., drew praise from both head coach Derek Dooley and his peers as Tennessee initiated pre-season camp for a season that opens opposite N.C. State Aug. 31 inside the Georgia Dome.
"Oh yes, absolutely. You could tell he put in a lot of work this summer," Dooley said. "We didn't have all that administrative stuff of couldn't get the play right. Couldn't get it called right. We were out there and it looked like practice 10 from an administrative standpoint and that's good. That's the way it should be."
Added senior wideout Zach Rogers, "We all looked pretty smooth I feel like. A lot of offseason work in here, and it translated out there I felt like. I was really impressed with Tyler today."
Bray has 12 career starts and has thrown for more than 3,800 yards and 35 touchdowns in 16 career games. He started the final five games of the Vols' 2010 season and their first five in 2011 before breaking his thumb late in the fourth quarter of Tennessee's home game against Georgia.
Now Bray is heavier and stronger than before, and Dooley said it was apparent.
"He didn't go through a full season because of a durability issue. He had the finger which is just one of those things," Dooley said. "Then the first year, he got hit more than any human I have ever seen. He's kind of proven to me that he is a durable guy. Now he hasn't done it for 12 games. I agree. He looks better. I think he still has a lot of growth he can do. The weight room was not one of his friends for most of his career. This is probably the first year he really invested in the weight room. And you can see it."
Punished internally by Dooley on the heels of an incident at his apartment complex that resulted in zero charges, Bray several days ago made a concerted effort to apologize to his teammates.
"We were finishing a run, and I just kind of went up and said 'I'm sorry," Bray explained. "I made a stupid mistake. Hopefully we can move forward and get to the season and get some wins under our belt.'
"We're all in college. We've all made stupid mistakes. So they all understand what's going on. They kind of slapped me on the head and said 'You've made your stupid mistake. Now it's time for the season. Let's bear down.'"
Sophomore all-purpose back Devrin Young maintained that Bray, on a number of preseason award watch-lists and already the focus of NFL draft chatter, held firm as a leader of the Vols.
"He apologized to us. We love him," Young said. "Things happen out here. It's college. People forget that we're young and we don't always make the best decisions.
"But he's still a leader. Everybody sees him as a leader, and that will never change."
During the Vols' opening session Friday, Bray again found comfort with the playmakers slated to be at his disposal this season.
"(Tight end Mychal) Rivera is faster than he's been since he's been here; he's running routes perfect almost," Bray explained. "Justin (Hunter) and Da'Rick (Rogers), they've been doing it since they got here. Kind of beating up on our DBs and getting open and making spectacular plays."
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