The quarterback is arguably the most important player on the football field. For the Vols this year, it will be the play of both quarterbacks that determines their success.
The battle for the starting job is between junior transfer Matt Simms and freshman Tyler Bray. However according to Head Coach Derek Dooley, they will ultimately need both quarterbacks to play well in order to be successful.
"I think Matt stays ahead at this stage of the game because of his experience and his knowledge of the offense," said Dooley. "Were going to need both of them, I'm just going to tell you right now."
Both newcomers were put into the battle for the starting spot when senior Nick Stephens transferred to Division II Tarleton State, just a 100-mile drive from his hometown of Flower Mound, Texas. Stephens was moved down on the Vols depth chart during spring practice, and left stating he wanted to be assured a starting job in his final year of eligibility.
Stephens lacked in playtime though, as he only played two games last season (Western Kentucky and Memphis) behind starter Jonathan Crompton, who was drafted in the fifth round by the San Diego Chargers in April. Stephens started his only six games in the middle of the 2008 when the Vols went 5-7 in former Head Coach Phillip Fulmer's last season.
Were going to need both of them, I'm just going to tell you right now. Derek Dooley on quarterbacks Matt Simms and Tyler Bray
Even with Crompton's graduation and Stephens' transfer, the Vols still have an experienced option to lead the offense.
Simms started his career at Louisville before transferring to El Camino College, a junior college in Torrance, Calif. There he completed almost 60 percent of his passes and threw for over 2,200 yards. He also had 17 touchdowns to help lead his team to a league title.
For Simms, football runs in the family. He is the son of Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms (New York Giants) and brother of current Tennessee Titans backup QB Chris Simms.
Bray, a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com, is an all-around athlete and was a three-sport star at Kingsburg High School in Kingsburg, Calif. The 6-foot-6, 192-pound QB completed over 61 percent of his passes and threw for over 3,300 yards and 41 touchdowns his senior year while leading his team to a perfect 13-0 record on their way to a league title.
"They're both really doing well and they're both different," said Dooley. "Ultimately we're going to evaluate them on how well we move the ball and score points."
In the team's first scrimmage of the fall, both quarterbacks had good numbers. Simms went 9-for-21 for 80 yards and one touchdown. Bray went 11-for-21 for 153 yards including a 49-yard touchdown pass.
Both improved in the second scrimmage. Simms went 11-for-22 for 235 yards and three touchdowns, while Bray passed 16-for-28 for 246 yards.
"They're both good players, were going to need both of them and I'm happy with where they are," said Dooley.
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