published Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Vols, Dogs quarterbacks good friends

Georgia's Aaron Murray, left, and UT's Tyler Bray face off this weekend in a key conference game.
Georgia's Aaron Murray, left, and UT's Tyler Bray face off this weekend in a key conference game.
Photo by Associated Press.

QUARTERBACK COMPARISON

Tennessee's Tyler Bray and Georgia's Aaron Murray are both in their third seasons as starting quarterbacks. But Saturday in Athens, Murray will make his 20th career SEC start while Bray will be starting just his ninth league game. Here's how the two friends stack up in a few notable categories.

TYLER BRAY ——— AARON MURRAY

6-6, 215 — Measurables — 6-1, 211

Kingsburg, Calif. — Hometown — Tampa, Fla.

11-5 — Record as starter — 20-11

4-4 — SEC record as starter — 12-7

3-3 — Record in road/neutral-site games — 7-8

2012 vs. N.C. State — Biggest win — 2011 vs. Florida

5,133 — Career yards — 7,290

47 — Career touchdowns — 69

1,301 — 2012 yards — 1,092

12 — 2012 touchdowns — 10

22nd — 2012 Pass efficiency rank (NCAA) — 8th

5th — 2012 Pass efficiency rank (SEC) — 2nd

9th — 2012 Passing ypg rank (NCAA) — 26th

2nd — 2012 Passing ypg rank (SEC) — 4th

KNOXVILLE — The friendship that began during a summer quarterback camp has continued into the season for Georgia's Aaron Murray and Tennessee's Tyler Bray.

The communication that started following the Manning Passing Academy in July between two of the Southeastern Conference's most talented passers didn't even stop this week, five days before the Volunteers and Bulldogs face off in Athens.

Monday night, one of the text messages even centered on football.

"Actually, we were talking last night," Bray said Tuesday morning after Tennessee's practice. "We were talking about trying to put on a show and how we kind of missed some throws last year and we need to hit those throws this year."

Murray and Bray are part of a bigger group of quarterbacks who stay in touch after serving together as camp counselors under the Mannings for a week in Louisiana. Bray said he has "regular" communication with LSU's Zach Mettenberger and North Carolina's Bryn Renner. Murray said at Georgia's media day Tuesday that his "fun little quarterback group" includes Mettenberger, West Virginia's Geno Smith and North Carolina State's Mike Glennon.

Even though Bray and he will face off in a key conference game Saturday, Murray doesn't believe it'll affect the friendship.

"We're both competitors, but we know we're not going out there playing against each other," he said. "He's playing against our defense, and I'm playing against their defense. It's going to be a great game and both of us are looking forward to it, but I don't think it's going to break any bond between us as friends."

With a win, Murray would become just the fifth SEC quarterback since 1990 to win three career games against Tennessee. That list includes Alabama's Jay Barker, Florida's Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow and Auburn's Jason Campbell. The fourth-year junior is playing the best football of his career in the eyes of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley.

"You can tell the confidence they have in him because they can open it up any time," Dooley said of Murray. "He's playing with a lot of confidence right now, and he's got a very strong arm. He's got a lot of snaps under his belt.

"They don't change a lot offensive in what they do, so ... he's had a lot of work at getting good at what they do. You can see him triggering the ball a lot quicker than he ever has. He's a lot more accurate than he's been, and that just comes with experience."

Though both are juniors, they're at different points along what Dooley calls the "journey" of becoming a complete quarterback. Murray blossomed last season in beating ranked Auburn and Georgia Tech teams, carrying the Bulldogs past longtime nemesis Florida and leading Georgia to the SEC East Division title. Bray didn't make his first start until midway through his freshman season and missed five games after breaking his thumb against the Bulldogs last season.

He'll be making just the fourth SEC road start of his career Saturday.

"They're also No. 1 in the league in passing and first downs, they're scoring 38 points per game and they're over 500 yards per game so far," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said of the Vols. "They're doing an outstanding job. Tyler Bray is ... one of the most talented passers that I've seen in a while throwing the football."

Since the camp, though, the quarterbacks' text-message conversations "rarely" have involved football, Bray said. Mettenberger said at SEC media days in July that the group's texts might include something funny seen on campus. On Twitter two weeks ago, Murray replied that he was jealous of Bray after the Vols' quarterback wrote he enjoyed meeting ESPN reporter Samantha Steele, who was in town with "College GameDay" for Tennessee's game with Florida.

The friendship includes respect for the other's football abilities.

"He's a great kid, and he's a competitor," Murray said. "We had that nice QB bond during the Manning camp and just picked each other's brains about different aspects of playing in the SEC, their offense, our offense and things like that. He's a cool kid."

Said Bray: "He's a great quarterback. He's going to put the ball in the right place. He's going to get his offense set up in the right play."

When the game ends sometime Saturday evening, Bray and Murray likely will meet near midfield at Sanford Stadium. The show the two hope to put on will be over. The friendship, though, won't be.

Staff writer David Paschall contributed to this story.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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