Passing attack

The fact Tennessee's offensive coordinator feels better about the quarterback position than he did a year ago, even with his No. 1 QB coming off an awful passing performance in the Orange & White game, tells you two things:

One, the QB outlook was really shaky 12 months ago.

Two, Jim Chaney doesn't put much stock in spring games.

After wowing Vol fans by passing for 300-plus yards in four of five late-season starts last fall, Tyler Bray's 5-for-30, 122-yard outing in the O&W game was as disappointing as it was shocking. Offensive coordinator Chaney isn't losing any sleep over that performance, however.

"I haven't put much into it, to be honest with you," Chaney said recently. "I don't think he played particularly well but I don't know that anybody's too worried with it."

Asked if Bray's poor showing in the spring game might shake his confidence or increase his determination, Chaney smiled.

"I don't see that game shattering his confidence," the coach replied. "I think he'll be just fine."

Chaney's optimism regarding the quarterback position is understandable. He went into the 2010 season with two QBs - junior Matt Simms and freshman Bray - who had never started a college game and had attempted just 10 college passes between them. This year the two have made a combined 13 starts and have thrown 429 college passes between them. Bray completed 55.8 percent of his throws for 1,849 yards last season, Simms 57.9 percent for 1,460 yards.

With two experienced QBs on hand, Tennessee should be able to open up the playbook a little more in 2011 than it did in 2010.

"I don't know that opening up the playbook is as important as doing what we do better," Chaney said. "I'd rather us become a better execution offense than add a bunch of new plays. I don't necessarily believe we need a bunch of new plays. We just need to do what we do better."

With the top two 2010 quarterbacks returning for 2011, you'd think Tennessee's passing attack would be significantly better. That isn't a given, however, since the Vols are without their top three pass catchers of 2010 - wideouts Gerald Jones (55 receptions) and Denarius Moore (47), along with tight end Luke Stocker (39). That trio combined for 141 of last season's 238 receptions and 15 of last season's 26 passing touchdowns. As a result, Chaney doesn't have much of a feel for how the 2011 air attack will be.

"I really don't," he said. "We'll find out a lot more as we approach that first game. We're going to miss Gerald, Denarius and Luke a lot. You talk about three guys that are pretty solid college football players, and those guys are departing, so we've got to fill a lot of voids there.

"I'm OK with where we're at but I can't sit here and tell you we're going to throw the ball a lot better than we did last fall. I hope we run the ball better, to be honest."

Although Bray is solidly entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback, Chaney seems confident the offense can function effectively should an injury force the Vols to call on one of their backups, Simms or mid-term freshman Justin Worley.

Simms went just 2-6 as a starter last September and October but didn't get an awful lot of help in several of those games.

"Any time things aren't going the way you want on offense, you look at the quarterback position," Chaney said. "Unfortunately, Matt got the blame for a lot of stuff that wasn't his fault at times."

Based on what he saw in spring practice, Chaney thinks Worley could contribute in 2011, as well.

"He's a very talented young man," the coordinator said. "We're pleased he's here."

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