Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray broke his thumb at the end of the Georgia game, and their offense has had about 20 percent of the production they had when Bray was playing every week.
Bray has been cleared to practice this week, but Derek Dooley is unsure if he will actually play on Saturday. He will decide that in pregame warmups. And if he does play, he will likely not be as potent as he was before he went down with his thumb injury.
“I’ve never had this experience. I think it’s very difficult [to come back],” Dooley said. “Of course, in Knoxville, everybody wanted Tyler to show up and Tinker Bell has his thumb fixed perfectly and he’s back to form the way he was five weeks ago, and that’s just not reality.
“Even if his thumb wasn’t broken, and he just took five weeks off and then came back, it’s hard for anybody to expect him to go out there and perform the way he was performing early in the season. It just takes time.”
“He’s not even close to what he was before he got injured — not even close. He’s got a broken thumb, so you can’t grip the ball and throw it the way you do when you don’t have a broken thumb. It’s going to take some time, guys. It’s like everything around here: We want immediate fixes and his thumb is not fixed.
You don’t just put magic serum on it and he can go throw like he did five weeks ago. It will come. I don’t know if it’s be this week.”
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin made it clear he wants Tyler Bray at quarterback, obviously to eliminate excuse factors if the Commodores were to beat the Vols on Saturday.
“We hope he plays,” said Franklin, referring to Bray. “We look forward to the challenge. Our kids are excited about it. And to be honest, watching them on film, it’s not like they’ve changed dramatically with Worley or whoever’s playing. They’re running very, very similar schemes.
“Obviously, with a veteran quarterback who’s had success, they’re able to do a little bit more, but it’s not like they go from a drop-back quarterback to an option quarterback or a dual-threat quarterback. It’s a very similar scheme, and it doesn’t change too much of what we’re going to do.”
Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt this weekend, in what could grow to be an in-state rivalry, shifting away from a Tennessee landslide in the past. This is not your daddy’s Vanderbilt. This is a new Vanderbilt, and I can guarantee you the Dores will be ready to take on the Vols on Saturday.