Do you remember the line from that classic movie "Airplane" where Lloyd Bridges character says "looks like I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue"? I thought about that as I continued my examination of quarterbacks who could be in the 2013 draft. Looks like I picked a bad week to watch Tyler Bray from Tennessee.
This is really the first time I saw the 6-6, 215 pound Bray play, except for a handful of snaps in a game against South Carolina earlier this season and this is the problem with not watching quarterbacks on a weekly basis. You come up with a snap judgement which can be incorrect. If you saw play of the California native in the Vols 40-18 dismantling at the hands of rival Vanderbilt, you wouldn't consider drafting him.
Bray had his worst game of the season and I'm guessing one of the worst of his three year career for UT. He was 11-29 for 103 yards, was picked off twice and actually pulled from the game for a couple of series in the second quarter. He went back into the game in the second half but remained ineffective.
It was a combination of problems for the junior including bad passes from him, drops from his wide receivers, and miscommunication between QB and receiver a few times leading to throws that landed nowhere near anyone wearing orange and white. Bray even had a touchdown pass wiped out by a penalty. It was that kind of a night. You could see a look of frustration on his face and he seemed demoralized on a night where Tennessee dropped to 0-7 in the SEC for the first time in school history. I don't like to see my quarterback with that kind of a look on his face and showing the body language seen from Bray on this night.
He does have a strong arm as evidenced by a number of deep throws but none connected. He does show mobility in the pocket and he can operate an up tempo offense as the Vols ran the no huddle from time to time. He showed some pretty good zip on his intermediate range passes too.
As I said, I must have caught him on a rare off night because the Vols offense has averaged 37 points a game this season and despite his horrific numbers against the Commodores, the California native has thrown for more than 33 hundred yards with 30 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. I wonder about his accuracy though because Bray has completed just 59% of his passes this season and has never finished a season with a completion percentage better than 59%.
In the three games prior to the Vandy contest(South Carolina, Troy, Missouri), Bray threw for more than 1300 yards, with 13 TD's and only 1 interception.
Since he is a junior, Bray can declare for the draft but he hasn't given any indication as to which way he is leaning. Tennessee just fired its coach so that could play a role in his decision and perhaps he won't want to end his collegiate career on such a sour note since the 4-7 Vols are not headed to a bowl game.
The other quarterback I watched last weekend was Ryan Nassib from Syracuse who seems to be rising up the qb chart. He had a much better night than Bray, leading the Orange to a come from behind win at Missouri enabling Syracuse to become bowl eligible. Nassib threw for 385 yards(272 in the 2nd half) and 2 touchdowns including a game winning 17 yard TD toss with 20 seconds left to give SU the 31-27 victory.
The senior from West Chester, Pennsylvania has played an integral role in the turnaround of the program which is 19-17 since he became the starting quarterback in 2010. If Syracuse beats Temple in its regular season finale, the Orange will finish 5-2 in the Big East and record its highest number of conference wins since 2001.
Nassib will leave Syracuse as the program's all time leader in passing yards. He has more career yards and more completions than Donovan McNabb. This season, Nassib and his offensive teammates rolled up more than 500 yards in six different games and they've set a school record for most total yards in a season.
As to the game with Missouri, Nassib showed a number of attributes including poise under pressure. SU was down 17-3 in the first half but Nassib never panicked. He calmly engineered touchdown drives and showed leadership. He's big and strong although most of his throws were short to intermediate range. I didn't see many deep throws in this game. His accuracy was good but he needs to work on his touch. His arm is so strong that he puts too much mustard on some of his short throws and they were too hot for the targets to handle. He has a pretty quick release and showed the ability to get the ball out on time.
As to leadership, Nassib was intercepted with the game tied at 24 and just over 4 1/2 minutes left but it wasn't his fault since his pass went off the receiver. He went over to the receiver and tapped him on the helmet while giving him words of encouragement. That turnover was cashed in by Missouri for the go ahead field goal but Nassib answered with the game winning drive. A good leader doesn't let his teammates get down on themselves and lose focus when he knows they can still win the game.
Nassib operated the offense both under center and out of the shotgun and was effective in both. Nassib, who directs the top passing offense in the Big East, did run some no huddle. He did a nice job of sliding around in the pocket to avoid the Tigers pass rush. When he was forced out of the pocket, the 6-2,229 pound senior was very good throwing on the run.
Nassib's completion rate, passing yards and number of passing touchdowns have increased every season. In this, his senior year, Nassib has completed 63% of his passes, thrown for more than 34 hundred yards, with 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.