Crompton Adds Intrigue To UT QB Picture

Such is the thirst for football talent at Tennessee that on the same day the Vols signed two topnotch quarterbacks in the Class of 2004, Big Orange fans were already calculating the impact it might have on junior QB prospect Jonathan Crompton, of Waynesville, N.C.

In fairness to UT faithful, Crompton was promptin' a lot of that attention by giving signals he might be ready to announce an early commitment in order to reduce the pressure of recruiting and better concentrate on his senior season at Tuscola High School.

Less than 24 hours after the ecstasy and agony of national signing day, Crompton announced he would make his choice public on Wednesday, Feb. 11, effectively firing the first shot of the 2005 recruiting campaign.

Immediately, the type of unbridled expectation and speculation that underscores the countdown to the first Wednesday in February, was unloosed some 363 days early as fans of reported finalists Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Clemson fired up the stoves and flooded message boards. It was like finding a present that got pushed under the couch in the melee of Christmas morning only to be discovered a week later.

However after Crompton postponed the announcement for a date to be determined, the hyperbole was put on hold.

"We were not able to get everything in order to make an announcement as of yet," said Jonathan's father, David Crompton, of the postponement.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Jonathan Crompton rose to prominence last summer as one of three juniors in the country invited to participate in the Elite 11 Camp in California. Blessed with a strong arm and durable frame, Crompton is believed by many to preferred Tennessee and the fact former Vol QB Heath Shuler is set to be his quarterback coach this fall doesn't hurt UT's chances with the celebrated signal caller.

While Crompton figures to be higher ranked in the Class of 2005 than either UT QB signee — Erik Ainge who is rated No. 29 and Brent Schaeffer who is rated No. 14 — were by The Insiders in 2004, we're dealing with three unknown quantities as far as the collegiate level goes. It's impossible to say which prospect will be the most productive passer in college or which would be the best fit for UT's offensive system. However, at first glance, there's nothing Crompton achieved statistically last season that just jumps out at you, especially when compared to Schaeffer and Ainge.

In his most proficient performance, Crompton completed 4-of-4 passes for 83 yards and four touchdowns. In his biggest game statistically, Crompton connected on 21-of-34 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He only surpassed 200 yards in one other game (12-of-22 for 218 yards and no TDs). He finished the regular season with 1,652 yards passing with 17 touchdowns vs. eight interceptions. These are all certainly respectable numbers but not what might be expected for a blue chip quarterback prospect playing class 3A football.

Crompton also had some clunkers as a junior including games in which he completed 2-of-17 passes for 48 yards, 5-of-14 passes for 92 yards and 5-of-12 passes for 134 yards. Neither was Crompton, who is listed with 4.9 speed in the 40, a serious running threat as he gained just 171 yards in 61 carries for two touchdowns.

Schaeffer, who rushed for over 1,500 yards and 31 touchdowns combined in his junior and senior seasons at Deerfield Beach High School, has 4.5 speed and completed 72 percent of his passes. In a 35-14 quarterfinal victory over Vero Beach in the Florida Class 6A state playoffs, Schaeffer connected on 19-of-25 passes for 298 yards and ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns.

Erik Ainge is three inches taller than Crompton and reportedly runs a 4.79 time in the 40. As a senior, he completed 209-of-344 passes for over 3,000 yards with 24 touchdown passes against only eight interceptions to pace Glencoe to a 7-3 mark and a berth in the Oregon Class-5A playoffs.

Crompton may turn out to be a better quarterback than either Schaeffer or Ainge, but if one of the latter emerges this fall as a true freshman, he might be inclined to revisited a commitment to the Vols. On the other hand, if C.J. Leak or Rick Clausen claim the job and hold off all contenders Crompton prospects improve, particularly in light of his early graduation.

"Everyone's asking me if I committed, but I'm still looking right now," said Crompton. "Tennessee's giving me my space. They said, 'If you want to commit, you can.' "

Tennessee's QB puzzle may add another part.

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