Derek Dooley doesn’t want to put a lot of stock in Tennessee’s Orange and White Game, which was played Saturday in Knoxville and marked the end of the spring football season.
The Vols’ second-year head coach, knows how misleading the intra-squad scrimmage can be.
“I always get nervous about overvaluing the spring game because I remember the year we won the national championship [while at LSU in 2003 as an assistant coach],” Dooley said in a Southeastern Conference spring football teleconference call on Wednesday. “Matt Mauck had six interceptions in the spring game. We were in a panic state all offseason and summer and then he went on to be the winningest quarterback in LSU history.”
The jury is still out on where quarterback Tyler Bray will end up in the Tennessee record books. But Dooley is not trying to read too much into Bray’s 5-of-30 performance on Saturday.
“Certainly Tyler’s performance on paper was horrible and there were a lot of reasons for it,” Dooley said. “Some were his fault and most of it had to do with a lot of extenuating circumstances. ... [In the spring game], we don’t have the one offense that has been working together for 14 practices together. So we divide the teams. It creates some inevitable personnel mismatches especially when you don’t have a deep team.”
Bray did have a few bright spots, like a 54-yard touchdown pass to Mychal Rivera. But Bray was rusty out of the gate, misfiring on his first eight passes.
“There were a lot of reasons for his performance. Tyler, of course, is a starting point,” Dooley said. “The combination of the receiving corps, the offensive line, what we were running on offense to help him — there are a lot of issues that went into it. So we are really going to evaluate Tyler and how he did in those other 14 practices and hopefully discount what happened in the spring game.”
As a freshman in 2010, with four games remaining, Bray took the starting position from Matt Simms and guided the Vols to four straight wins, helping them become bowl eligible. Bray, a native of Kingsburg, Calif., finished with 1,849 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in nine games played.
Leading up to the spring game, Dooley said he had been pleased with what he had seen out of his 6-foot-6, 210-pound quarterback.
That body of work, Dooley says, is more telling than one game.
“I thought the last two weeks of spring practice he really performed the way we expected him to perform — from a command standpoint, from an accuracy standpoint, from a judgment, decision-making standpoint,” Dooley said. “So that was encouraging. But certainly Tyler has a lot of work ahead of him. He is still in the infant stages of quarterbacking. He is young. He is in the early stages of his career and probably ultimately how good he is will be based on how much commitment he has to being good.”