Saturday, April 26, 2008

Take the Keys and Drive

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Jonathan Crompton has waited for three years to show what he could do with the full set of keys to the Tennessee offense.
The Vols' fans only had to wait one play Saturday to see what they hope is just a glimpse of what they can expect from the fourth-year junior quarterback this fall. Crompton, throwing the ball on time and looking very much in control, opened Tennessee's Orange and White spring game with a 74-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore.

When he was finished, Crompton had completed 13 of 20 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in leading the White team to a 38-16 win over the Orange team. But Crompton was still kicking himself afterward, because his final pass of the scrimmage was an interception over the middle right into the chest of linebacker LaMarcus Thompson.

"That one bad play is the one that kills you," Crompton said. "You can't make two or three good ones and then a bad one. That will get you beat in our league."

Everybody, from Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, to first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, to Crompton's teammates, were all in agreement when they exited Neyland Stadium on Saturday: Crompton was ready.

After redshirting his first year at Tennessee in 2005, Crompton then spun his wheels most of the past two years behind Erik Ainge. But now this year he held the reins.

Perhaps the best thing for Crompton is that he got a clean break with the entire offensive staff (save offensive line coach Greg Adkins) being new.

When David Cutcliffe took off to be the new head coach at Duke, everything and anything that had happened the past two years on offense (good and bad) was just that: in the past.

The other thing Crompton has going for him is an underrated arsenal of playmakers. Gerald Jones, who lined up at both receiver and then quarterback in the Vols' version of the old single wing on Saturday, has a chance to be one of the SEC's most electrifying offensive players next season.

"One of the best things [Crompton] did was use the players around him," Clawson said. "As coaches, we talk about putting the ball in the hands of our best playmakers. Ultimately, that falls on the quarterback, and he's proven that he's going to do that."

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