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May 7, 2012

Position breakdown: The quarterbacks

A year ago, questions were abounding regarding quarterback Tyler Bray. The California signal-caller was a freezer-like 5-for-30 in the Orange and White game and fans wondered just how serious Bray was about being a big-time quarterback.

Fast forward to this year and Bray's spring numbers were better in a 14-for-26 day. But the junior finds his name littered on mock drafts for 2013 and he leads a quarterback group that has the Vols coaching staff smiling.

As the Vols prepare for the start of the summer off-season program, we start a position-by-position breakdown of the Tennessee roster. Today, it's a position that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he wouldn't swap for any other group anywhere - The quarterbacks.

Breaking down the QB's:
Starter: Tyler Bray, 6-6, 217, JR

Improved: Decision-making, leadership

Summer target: More of the same

Backups: Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman

Improved: Worley - Arm-strength, release; Peterman - true freshman

Summer target: Worley - continued offensive grasp, fine-tuning release; Peterman - recovering from finger injury and more comfort in offense

Tyler Bray - Head coach Derek Dooley said it best when he noted Bray's improvement is about being able to throw the ball better. Bray's growth since the start of the spring semester has been encouraging to everyone. He's been more active in the community, visiting with children and doing service work that's a given when you're the starting quarterback for an SEC program. Bray's also showed leadership not just in his play, but in his improved mental approach to practice every day and to things like his work with Da'Rick Rogers when Rogers had his mini-meltdown early in spring. Oh and by the way, Bray can throw it. But it was his consistency in throwing the ball away and his willingness to check down to receivers deep in his route progression that has left everyone encouraged with his on-the-field play.

The challenge now for Bray is can he continue to grow as a leader and carry his improved mentality of working daily to be a better quarterback throughout the summer. Bray must not only continue to improve but he must also continue to push those around him to be better.

Justin Worley - Worley's improvement was more physically than anything. After being thrown into play last season and struggling with simply being a true freshman playing college football, Worley admitted that playing last season made him better this spring because he understood the need to mentally prepare better and to improve with some things physically. Worley is stronger and he's improved his mechanics. The sophomore made strides in his footwork coming from under center instead of out of the shotgun.

But the biggest improvement that Worley made this spring is in his throwing motion. Worley has shortened his delivery and has improved his release of the football.

Nathan Peterman - It's unfortunate that Peterman's spring was cut short by the dislocated finger on his throwing hand. The true freshman missed his last scrimmage and the Orange and White game. In his limited work, Peterman impressed with his physical skills. He's clearly the most athletic of the three quarterbacks and physically has a stronger arm than Worley. Peterman knew very little of the Vols offense, but Chaney described him as a sponge and was impressed with how quickly he was learning things this spring. Whether Peterman plays or not this fall likely depends on injury but after last season, every quarterback must be ready. Peterman's summer challenge is to understand the intensity of summer. It's a critical time to improve physically and to learn the offensive system to be better prepared to play in September if called upon.



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