Time for Bray to make his mark on the field

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is back in the news again … for something other than football.

Is it a big deal on the surface that he was “hot dogging” on a jet ski back in July, leading to boating charges that he settled in court on Wednesday?

No, not really. Most of us have acted like a knucklehead at some point in our youth. I’m certainly guilty as charged.

But I’m also not Tennessee’s starting junior quarterback, the same quarterback we’ve been assured has matured, grown up and taken his leadership responsibilities more seriously leading up to what the Vols hope will be a breakthrough season under Derek Dooley.

The only thing we really know about Bray at this point is that he’s a wonderfully gifted passer who’s put up some impressive numbers against lesser competition.

He’s started in 12 career games at Tennessee, and only one of those has come against a nationally ranked team. The Vols lost 33-23 last season at No. 16 Florida.

Moreover, in those 12 starts, Bray has beaten just one FBS team (Cincinnati) that finished the season with a winning record.

None of this means that he won’t blossom this season and become the kind of top-flight NFL prospect some analysts have predicted. Again, he clearly has the arm strength and has proved to be fearless when it comes to standing in the pocket and delivering the football.

What isn’t as clear is what kind of leader Bray will be and whether or not he has what it takes to be a steadying force in tough situations and the kind of quarterback who makes everybody else around him better.

And, yes, decision-making is still a concern.

Bray himself admitted that the whole beer bottle-throwing episode last month was stupid. I would throw “oblivious” in there as well. How does an SEC starting quarterback think he or anybody in his company can sit around outside in public and toss beer bottles at parked cars and not have it mushroom into a problem of some kind?

I’ve heard some comparisons to former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, and that’s not fair. Bray hasn’t been suspended five times.

But I do think it’s fair to say that the jury is still very much out on Bray as a quarterback.

Not so much as a passer, but as a quarterback and all the things that go into being a marquee player at that position.

It’s time for him to make a difference on the field and do it against somebody that counts.