'Staying the course'

Throughout a tumultuous 2007 season that featured lopsided losses to Cal, Florida and Alabama in the first seven games, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer repeatedly emphasized the need to remain calm and "stay the course."

Apparently, his players were listening because they rallied to win six of their last seven games for a 10-4 finish.

Then, when the search for an offensive coordinator to succeed David Cutcliffe seemed to drag on and on, the players' patience again was tested. But, again, they generally remained calm and stayed the course ... although there were a few anxious moments.

"We talked about it a little bit," quarterback Jonathan Crompton admitted, "but we all had confidence in Coach Fulmer. That's what you've got to have in your coach – knowing he's going to go out and get the best guy for our scheme, our guys and our system … which he did."

Still, Crompton was a bit antsy at times. Four days before Richmond head coach Dave Clawson was introduced as the new Vol coordinator, Crompton began preparing himself for the task of replacing four-year starter Erik Ainge. The first order of business was setting up a workout schedule with the men who will be running routes for him this spring.

"The receivers and I got together after our team meeting on the 8th and set up a time to throw," Crompton recalled.

After a redshirt season and two years as a little-used backup, Crompton is understandably eager to make this HIS offense and put HIS stamp on the team. Assertively setting up offseason workouts with the receivers was Step 1 in this endeavor. It made him feel like an integral part of the team for the first time in a long while.

"It feels like me again, to be honest," he said. "I'm not saying I'm demanding but (he's telling the receivers) ‘We need to throw this, we need to throw that, we need to throw now.' I think I'm back to being myself."

Unfortunately, Crompton spent three years learning a UT offense that he rarely got to be a part of on game day. Now he faces the task of learning another attack.

"I knew the old system – still know it – like the back of my hand," he said. "I'd been in it for three years, so it's going to be a jump, having to learn the new terminology and the new concepts."

One thing Crompton won't have to learn is how to use his feet. Clawson likes quarterbacks who can move around in the pocket, and Crompton already excels in this area.

"I'm not going to be the guy that runs for 50 yards," Crompton said. "My whole thing is I want to sit in the pocket. If I've got to move a little bit, I'll move. I just want to get the playmakers the ball – whether it be running backs or receivers."

Now that star tailback Arian Foster has decided to return for his senior season, Crompton will have plenty of playmakers in the fall – Foster, Montario Hardesty and Lennon Creer at tailback; Lucas Taylor, Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe at receiver; Jeff Cottam and Luke Stocker at tight end. The five blockers who started the last half of the 2007 season return, as well.

"Our O-line is outstanding," Crompton said, grinning softly, "so we're going to have some fun."


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