'My own worst critic'

Few people are scrutinized as roughly and criticized as gruffly as a Tennessee quarterback. Just ask Erik Ainge. The prospect of being scrutinized and criticized doesn't seem to bother Ainge's chief rival for the No. 1 job, however.

Asked where he feels he has made the most improvement since arriving at Tennessee, redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton shrugged and replied: "I'm my own worst critic. I don't know where I've made the most strides."

Competition doesn't bother him, either. He has not conceded the first-team job to Ainge, although much of the Vol Nation has. Crompton sees each practice as an opportunity to fight for the top job.

"That's how you do it every day, whether you're first-team or fifth-team," he said. "You go in there every day and compete your hardest."

While competing with Ainge, Crompton also is learning from Ainge.

"Just watching him and what he does – how he does things – helps a lot," Crompton said.

After missing all of the 2005 season due to shoulder surgery, Crompton finally got to show the coaches what he could do in spring practice. Despite the long layoff, he progressed steadily as the spring continued.

Jonathan Crompton conceded he was a little rusty "at the very beginning. Anybody's going to be. After a while you start getting back into the swing of things. You start feeling a little more comfortable every day."

It has been 21 months since he took a snap in a real game, so the strong-armed 6-4, 220-pounder is understandably eager to play again. Heck, he's eager to scrimmage.

"I'm anxious to play … practice … anything," he said. "I don't know how I'd react (in a game situation) because I haven't been put in that situation but I'm anxious."

The fact Vol quarterbacks will go "live" (eligible to be tackled) in a few preseason scrimmages may work in Crompton's favor. He showed good pocket poise and good mobility last spring.

"It's important, seeing how we both react under the pressure," he said. "I'm all for it."

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