KNOXVILLE, TENN. (AP) - Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray could miss about six weeks after breaking his right thumb against Georgia.
Bray injured the thumb on his throwing hand with under 6 minutes to go in the 20-12 loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday when it hit the helmet of a defender mid-throw. X-rays performed Sunday confirmed the fracture.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore has completed 116 of 176 pass attempts this season for 1,579 yards, a Southeastern Conference-leading 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Bray had at least three touchdown passes in seven of his nine starts over the past two seasons and had multiple passing touchdowns in 10 straight games until he was shut out against Georgia.
His absence means the Volunteers, who three weeks ago lost top wide receiver Justin Hunter to a torn ACL, will start Matt Simms at quarterback. The senior entered the game after Bray's injury and threw two passes of more than 10 yards to set up the Vols' lone touchdown of the game, a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
"Matt's battle tested. He's been out there," coach Derek Dooley said Sunday during the Derek Dooley TV show. "He's got to get out there and do it. We'll try to get a plan, and we'll be ready to go."
Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) hosts No. 1 LSU on Saturday and travels to No. 2 Alabama the following week.
Simms started eight games last season before Bray replaced him. One of his starts was a 16-14 loss at LSU, a game that Tennessee appeared to have won until a Vols penalty for too many men on the field on defense cleared the way for a game-winning touchdown by the Tigers.
Simms, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Franklin Lakes, N.J., native, was 113 of 195 for 1,460 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions in 11 games last season. He lost his starting job to Bray after an inept first half in a 38-24 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 30.
But he's continued to be a leader among the Vols in a backup role.
"Ever since I came here, Matt's been a huge leader," tight end Mychal Rivera said. "Tyler's been a huge leader. Matt's been working hard behind Tyler all year. Whoever is the quarterback, I'm expecting great things from him."
Bray had been the key to Tennessee's one-dimensional offense this season. The Vols are averaging 327.2 yards passing per game compared to 84.8 yards rushing, thanks to Bray's conference-leading 315.8 yards passing per game.
Should he progress enough in his recovery in six weeks, Bray would be available to close the season against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.