Crompton cleans out the attic

He didn't set the woods on fire in Tennessee's first spring scrimmage ... but he didn't call any of last year's plays, either.

With the Vols overhauling their terminology under first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, third-year junior Jonathan Crompton and the other quarterbacks are spending this spring learning and memorizing several new plays, plus new names for all of the old plays.

Asked if he ever called one of last year's plays by mistake during the scrimmage, Crompton shook his head and smiled.

"No, I don't do that," he said. "I tried to throw all of last year's offense out the window, just so I wouldn't go back and forth."

After three years in Tennessee's previous offensive system, Crompton is like a new home-owner whose attic is full of useless junk left by the previous resident. To make room for the things he needs, he must first discard everything that already was in place.

"That's where it gets rough," he said. "That's where you start getting confused. You accidentally say last year's terminology in the huddle and everybody's going, 'What are you talking about?'"

Since he's the guy entrusted with making the calls, the quarterback obviously has to have a better grasp on the terminology than anyone on the roster. Determined to be the No. 1 QB come fall, Crompton has worked very hard to learn all of the new plays and play calls.

"I've picked it up pretty well now," he said. "I think I know the terminology the best I can as of right now but I'm going to continue to get better at it."

Crompton was just about the only new face on the No. 1 offense Saturday. Every receiver who caught a pass last fall is back. So are all five starters from the 2007 offensive line and the top three tailbacks. The only guys missing are quarterback Erik Ainge, tight end Brad Cottam and H-back Chris Brown. Having so many experienced players on hand should ease the transition to a new offense a bit.

"It helps a lot, especially having veterans at every position," Crompton said.

Best of all, the fact his receivers are guys he has thrown to in the past should help get the passing game on track a little quicker.

"That's what we want, especially with them knowing how to run the routes and things like that," Crompton said. "I can't speak (highly) enough for them right now."

Still, the offense has a lot of learning to do and a lot of jelling to do between now and the 2008 opener against Alabama-Birmingham.

"We're just trying to get better every day," Crompton said. "Everybody's trying to be around each other every second we can, especially on offense. We're trying to watch as much film together as we can, trying to know where everybody's going to be at certain times, so we (quarterbacks) know where to throw it, they (receivers) know where to catch it and the line knows where we're going to be."

Crompton's stats for Scrimmage No. 1 were OK ... 7 completions in 15 attempts for 55 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. It was obvious that receivers zigged a few times when he expected them to zag.

After terming the performance "not bad," Crompton went on to note that, "The first scrimmage is always the roughest. Some things are going your way and some things aren't. You've just got to go with it."

The quarterback expressed eagerness to make some improvements in practice this week before putting his skills on display again this Saturday in scrimmage No. 2.

"That's when you see the biggest improvement – from the first scrimmage to the second scrimmage," he said.

Although he would love to complete almost every pass and see the offense score on almost every possession, Crompton knew that wasn't a realistic expectation last Saturday. It isn't a realistic expectation for this Saturday, either. With the Vols installing a new attack, growing pains are inevitable. Besides, the UT defense is light-years ahead of the offense at this stage of spring practice.

"Oh, yeah. They're definitely ahead of the offense," Crompton conceded. "They've been running this defense for years and we've been running this offense for two or three weeks."

On a positive note: The better the Vols understand their new offense, the better they'll be able to run it. The attack unit should be making huge strides in the weeks to come.

"It's taking a little time," Crompton said. "It's still a little rough around the edges, trying to get everything situated. But we're working on it, and that's where we just have to go watch this film and get a little better."

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