Crompton has team's confidence

The last time Jonathan Crompton replaced Erik Ainge at quarterback, the Tennessee sideline panicked. Don't expect the same reaction if Crompton replaces Ainge against LSU. Crompton has quietly gained the confidence of his teammates and coaches during practices.

Ainge's sprained ankle – suffered running an ill-fated quarterback draw against the Gamecocks -- remains weak. He didn't practice Monday or Tuesday. It's uncertain if he'll play against the nation's top-ranked defense this Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS). If Ainge can't go, Crompton is ready. And self-assured.

After Ainge's ankle injury, the Vols inserted Crompton to run out the clock. Crompton checked to a pass. UT's coaches rushed onto the field to call a time out, wanting to make sure the Vols kept the ball on the ground.

``Everybody saw the play where he was going to check to a pass and we were trying to run out the clock,'' receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. ``He said, `Coach, I was fixing to throw a touchdown pass,' And he meant that. I don't think he was kidding.

``He was serious as a heart attack. He almost gave me a heart attack. That's the kind of confidence he has. Guys, when you watch him throw the football, there is a reason he has that confidence.''

Jonathan Crompton has yet to throw an incompletion in college. He is 4-for-4 in mopup duty. He may jump to the first line of fire against an LSU defense that leads the nation in total yards allowed and pass-defense efficiency, is second against scoring and seventh against the run.

But to hear Taylor tell it, Crompton isn't your typical second-team quarterback. He'll keep the starting receivers after practice to throw to them.

``I'll have to say, `Jon, they can't put that many reps in, man. They've already had a full practice,''' Taylor said. ``But he wants to throw and catch with those guys anyway. He demands respect like he's running the show.''

Crompton, listed at 6-4 and 225, was running the show his first day of running exclusively with the first team offense on Monday.

``He corrected (Robert) Meachem on a route, telling him, `I need you to come back inside,''' Taylor said. ``Here's a (redshirt) freshman talking to one of your best players out there. That tells you what you've got in Jonathan. … He has a demeanor about himself.''

Taylor said he is most impressed with Crompton's competitiveness.

``I don't care if you're playing marbles,'' Taylor said, ``he thinks he's supposed to win. I can remember in the morning workouts, we were going 5-10-5 drills and he dives across the line in order to beat one of the fastest kids on the team because he didn't want to lose. That sends a message because every body was watching at the time.''

Crompton watches film as if he were a starter. He asks questions in meetings. He wonders about routes of the receivers.

``Most backups don't do that,'' Taylor said.

Taylor said he's seen progress in Crompton in recent weeks, but he also recalled how close the competition was between Crompton and Ainge earlier.

``There was a question as to whether or not he'd passed Erik because of how well he did,'' Taylor said. ``He really approaches the game as if he were a starter and it didn't start when Erik got hurt. He's been going it the whole time.''

David Cutcliffe, Tennessee's offensive coordinator, has also taken note of Crompton's progress.

``He's really made strides,'' Cutcliffe said. ``Last week was by far his best week. He was outstanding in practice. He understands. He came to me and said, `I'm really feeling comfortable and seeing and understanding.' That's not an easy process in our offense. It's a big challenge.

``He's done a tremendous job with it. He handles and manages our offense extremely well. I'm real pleased with where he is at this time. He's throwing the ball real well. I noticed in warm-ups prior to the South Carolina game he was really throwing it well.''

Cutcliffe can only hope that continues if Crompton is pressed into action against LSU.

EXTRA POINTS: Cutcliffe was asked if rumors associating him with the North Carolina job are a distraction: ``No, I haven't thought about it until you just brought it up. I absolutely have given it no thought.'' … UT offensive lineman David Ligon said he is not in favor of the 12th game because of what it stands for: ``Power, greed and money.'' But he said he is in favor of a college playoff.

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