When last Eye on CFB checked in on Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, the sophomore gunslinger had been cleared to practice, with Derek Dooley saying he'd be "crazy" not to give him the start if his broken thumb had healed enough for him to play. Four days of practice later, what's changed?
Nothing where the Vols and Dooley are officially concerned--Dooley's most recent official comment was that Bray would be a game-time decision, saying it "may come down to pregame warmups." But with Dooley also discussing how Bray would best handle snaps and no doubt desperate to avoid an 0-7 "start" to the SEC season, it'll be something of a surprise if Bray doesn't take the field; CBSSports.com Tennessee RapidReporter Daniel Lewis writes that "all indications" are that Bray will play.
So no one will blame Tennessee's Saturday opponent, Vanderbilt, for assuming they're going to see the largely successful Bray-led version of Vols from early this season rather than the offensive horror show they've been in his five-game absence. Commodore head coach James Franklin took Bray's inclusion as all but a foregone conclusion:
“Tyler Bray, getting him back … that will give them a spark of energy,” Franklin said. “When you’re able to get a guy like that back, it has an effect on the coaches in terms of confidence in what they can call when you have an experienced quarter.The stakes are high for Franklin's team, which would clinch only the program's second bowl berth in its last 29 seasons with a win--not to mention being able to claim a victoy over the Vols for, likewise, just the second time in those same 29 years. Even if only by a point, the Commodores are favored for just the second time in the series since lines were established.
“And then also, receivers just seem to run better routes when they’ve got their guy. Tight ends: same thing. The O-line seems to protect well. So it will have a spark for sure.”
That makes the game a massive opportunity for Franklin and his 'Dores, and it's no surprise they're preparing for the best Volunteer opponent they can imagine seeing. As Dooley said: there's too much on the line for both teams to take the "crazy" step of holding Bray out if he's at all available.