UPDATE: Tyler Bray has committed to the Vols. For those of you who have come to this post via a link, please direct your attention to this update post. -hooper
The first weekend of Tennessee Volunteer football under the Lane Kiffin administration went of quite swimmingly, thank you very much. Not only do we, as fans, now have something to talk about (and an actual end to the "back it up on the field" comments at the moment), but now the recruits have on-field results to consider. A few items surely in their heads include:
- A coaching staff that isn't content with a 28-point quarter because the team didn't play their best during the first half.
- A senior quarterback who went from red-scarfed scapegoat to hero, throwing for more touchdowns in 3 quarters under Kiffin than all of last year.
- Offensive and Defensive lines that played with passion, discipline, and dominance.
- Freshmen contributing all over the place.
- A stadium full of rocking, partying Vols fans cheering lustily over a "mere" win over Western Kentucky.
Simply put, the Vols' opening game was fun, intense, and championship-driven. News comes after the jump, including discussion on Tyler Bray, the recruiting importance of UCLA, and more. But first, the board:
There are currently two quarterbacks atop the Volunteers watch list at the moment: Tyler Bray and Barry Brunetti. Brunetti is the home state hero with the better set of wheels and the more prestigious commit, but Bray is unquestionably the hotter topic at the moment due to his recent visit and his better projection into the Lane Kiffin offense. He did not commit on Saturday, but the current speculation is that he wanted to go home and speak with the San Diego State staff first (which may imply an impending switch to UT). If so, that's an honorable way to handle the change.
At 6'-6", he is now up over 200 lbs (from his reported 187 lbs. last spring) and is steadily filling his frame out the right way. He has recently been upgraded to four stars by both Rivals and ESPN, and will likely get a similar bump from Scout in the near future. From the recruiting sites, here are some of Bray's notes:
- #7 overall quarterback in the year (running or pro-style).
- Very coordinated for his height.
- Quick compact throw (unusual for such a tall player).
- Very well-developed mechanics and footwork.
- Throws well on the run (read: bootleg).
- Very competitive.
- #11 overall quarterback, #6 pro-style.
- 5.45-second 40 time (significantly slower than any other top-prospect quarterback)
- #23 overall quarterback.
- Lacking only in size.
- Mechanically and mentally sound.
Between the three evaluations, you see a picture of a kid who has all of the "quarterback" skills you could ask for, but is lacking only in the athletic skills department. He won't outrun anybody. With a 22-inch vertical, he's not going over the top of the line on a quarterback sneak in a stadium near you. ESPN refers to him in terms of Drew Bledsoe, which immediately conjures up images of pigeons resting on statues, but also implies that his upside follows the same lines as Peyton Manning - just without the tutelage from age 3.
What Bray Needs
You can't ask somebody to be something that they simply aren't, and Bray will never be a running quarterback. His escargot-like track speed can be brought somewhere along the lines of 5.0 to 5.2 with track training, but that's likely his limit. Instead, the focus is on emphasizing his strengths; despite the massive growth spurt that vaulted him to be the tallest elite quarterback in the class, he's not at all uncoordinated and the recruiters have consistently remarked on how fluid and consistent his mechanics are. He's decisive and has a quick over-the-top release that's going to be extremely difficult for linemen to block. He has great field vision and is easily coached in terms of reading defenses and calling audibles.
If you can't tell already, I'm currently hoping for Bray as the next commit. I like the way he projects into Kiffin's offense. He's also going to transfer to college in January, so he'll be around for spring camp (his family will move to wherever he goes to college, so distance from home is no issue). One year from now, he'll likely be around 220 lbs; if he ends up redshirting behind Nick Stephens and Nick Lamaison, his second season will have him around the 230 lb. mark and a year and a half under Kiffin's system.
RECRUITING AND UCLA
We've often labeled the UCLA game as the biggest game of the year for the Vols, and there are several reasons why this is a reasonable belief. For one, it is a vengeance game for the massive pleated-khaki thud we felt when unwrapping the Clawfense last year. For another, UCLA will set the tone for the rest of the season: are we on our way back and ironing out the creases, or is this a full-blown, EPIC REBUILD season? SEC / PAC-10 pride is massively on the line, and LSU has already done their part. But perhaps even more importantly, the UCLA game may very well be the decisive game for 2010 and 2011 recruiting.
The Western Kentucky game showed recruits what the mentality and the personality of the new-look UT will be, but the UCLA game will show them how the path projects to the future. This is the team that ended last year by completely shutting down the passing game in order to beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky. If they can come out and show a complete game (and, ideally, win) against UCLA, the difference will speak more volumes than we can write. All summer long, the coaches have been flooding mailboxes with love letters to high school boys touting the upcoming surge of Tennessee football, and this game will show it. Success here will be the leaping point for the next two years of recruiting, while a dismal outing will doom the Vols to playing catchup.
Over the coming week, we'll analyze and evaluate the UT-UCLA matchup. UCLA has a good defense and will be a terrific measuring stick for the Lane Kiffin offense. Win here, and all fears about the Boy Wonder being over his head will be dissolved.
The wish list remains unchanged from before, as nobody has committed to UT (or to any other program, for what it's worth). A tight end, some more offensive linemen, one running back, and some more linebacker and secondary support would round this class out very nicely.