UT quarterback following receivers by declaring for NFL Draft
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012 7:00 pm
By EVAN WOODBERY
Quarterback Tyler Bray is leaving Tennessee to enter the NFL draft, CBSSports.com reported Thursday night.
Reporter Bruce Feldman, citing an unnamed source, said Bray would forgo his senior year of eligibility under first-year coach Butch Jones. Bray could not be reached for comment, and did not confirm or deny the report on Twitter.
Jones confirmed Wednes-day that junior receiver Cordarrelle Patterson would leave early for the NFL. He did not offer an update on Bray’s status.
“We’ve had conversations (with Bray),” Jones said. “In a very short period of time, it’s hard for them, because they really don’t know me. But you try to be as upfront and honest as possible. … We’ll support them in whatever choice they make.”
Bray would leave Tenn-essee in fourth place all-time in passing touchdowns (69) and passing yards (7,444) and fifth in pass completions (540). He is immediately behind Erik Ainge in all three categories.
Although the Vols finished with a losing record, Bray put up big numbers in his final year. He completed 268 of 451 passes for 3,612 yards, an average of 301 per game. He threw 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Bray replaced Matt Simms and started five games as a true freshman in 2010, a promising debut that earned him the starting role a year later. But he was sidelined for five games early in 2011 after breaking his thumb.
Bray’s goal was to be healthy in 2012, and he succeeded, benefiting from a much-improved offensive line that helped him to lead one of the most prolific Vol offenses ever.
Bray declined to answer most questions about his future during the final week of the season, although he did say at one point that the choices made by Patterson and Justin Hunter would influence his decision.
Hunter, the Vols’ leading receiver in 2012, declared his intention to enter the NFL draft on Monday. Patterson’s decision, confirmed by Jones but not formally announced, would leave few if any experienced receivers on Tennessee’s roster.
Draft projections vary for Bray, who has a strong arm and a 6-foot-6 frame but likely needs seasoning before being asked to start in the NFL. Most recently, NFL analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said he could see Bray going in the second or third round.
Even as he was putting up big numbers in 2012, Bray could still be inconsistent, and coach Derek Dooley even threatened to bench him at one point this year.
Bray answered the challenge with one of the best stretches of his career, amassing 1,302 yards, 13 touchdowns and just one interception in a three-game stretch against South Carolina, Troy and Missouri. But a week later against Vanderbilt, he was benched after a listless performance in the Vols’ 41-18 loss.
Bray ended his career with a victory over Kentucky with his coordinator, Jim Chaney, serving as interim head coach. Bray’s family had come from California to watch the game.
“I thought we would be going to a bowl, but things didn’t go that way this year,” Bray said. “We got a win at the end, so that’s all that matters.”
Without Bray, the Vols would enter spring practice with only two scholarship quarterbacks — rising junior Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman, who redshirted as a freshman in 2012. Riley Ferguson of Matthews, N.C., is verbally committed to the Vols and is expected to sign in February and join the team in the summer.
Worley played only sparingly this year after being pressed into action as a true freshman in 2011. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 51 yards and one interception in relief of Bray at Vanderbilt.
Published in The Messenger 12.21.12