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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Tennessee

By Edward Aschoff

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

Record: 3-2 (0-2 SEC)

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley just can’t catch a break. Not only did his mom embarrass him on a local radio station by defending her "baby" as one of the greatest coaches in the country, but he has yet another major injury to deal with heading into the second half of the season. Tennessee will be without starting quarterback Tyler Bray, who is dealing with a broken thumb, for at least four weeks. Before his injury, Bray was averaging an SEC-high 332 yards per game and had 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Bray’s injury means senior Matt Simms takes over at the quarterback position. Simms was 2-6 as a starter last year and he jumps in right in time to take on the likes of LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas during the next five-week span. That’s a rough way to return, but Simms’ teammates have confidence in the veteran and respect the heck out of him.

Not having Justin Hunter, who is out for the year with a knee injury, at wide receiver won’t make Simms’ transition back to starter much easier, but Da'Rick Rogers is a solid No. 1 option. Running Tauren Poole is battling a hamstring injury, but the running game hasn’t been much of a factor at all this year, and that’s a major problem for this team. You can’t win games in this league without running the football, and Tennessee has -30 rushing yards in two SEC games.

Offensive MVP: QB Tyler Bray: Before he went down, he was the conference’s most consistent passer. He had thrown for two or more touchdowns in each of the first four games and broke the 250-yard mark in all five games. What was also impressive about Bray’s play was that since Hunter went down against Florida he passed for 869 yards and six touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: S Prentiss Waggner: Waggner proved to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league last season, but now he’s showing that he can be one of the best safeties as well by covering a ton of ground. While he doesn’t have an interception, he’s been very active this fall. He is second on the team with 26 tackles, has a sack and five pass breakups. He also has three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.