Handcuffs coming off

Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer is no fan of bondage movies but he did spend the past few days watching film of three guys in handcuffs trying some difficult maneuvers.

Vol fans will be relieved to know that the three guys were quarterbacks, the handcuffs were metaphorical and the maneuvers were performed at Neyland Stadium in last Saturday's first full-scale scrimmage of spring practice.

"We handcuffed them a little bit on Saturday," Fulmer said following Tuesday's practice. "We didn't have a lot of checks and things in, but we didn't have fumbles and we didn't have screw-ups."

Junior Jonathan Crompton, adjusting to the No. 1 QB role after two years as the chief backup to Erik Ainge, completed 7 of 15 passes for 55 yards in the first scrimmage. Sophomore Nick Stephens was 5 of 8 for 54 yards. Redshirt freshman B. J. Coleman was 9 of 16 for 95 yards.

Immediately after the scrimmage, Fulmer's first impression of the quarterback play suggested it was essentially neutral – somewhere between good and bad.

"I don't know that it was an outstanding day," he said. "It looked like Nick Stephens made some continuing drives. There was nothing that was displeasing but nothing we thought was outstanding, either. "

After reviewing the scrimmage tapes Saturday night, Sunday and Monday, Fulmer's second impression of the QB play wasn't a whole lot different than his first impression.

"I thought Jonathan did OK," the head man said, "and it was a learning experience for the other two."

Crompton was responsible for the scrimmage's only touchdown pass and its only interception.

"There was one turnover and one dropped snap," Fulmer noted. "You don't accept that but, for the first scrimmage, that's not bad."

Although the quarterbacks and receivers did not seem to be on the same page at times, the head coach saw some positive developments.

"Now if we can take the next step," Fulmer said. "Whether they're big steps or baby steps will depend on them."

New offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is implementing a new offensive system with new terminology this spring. Still, Fulmer is cutting the QBs very little slack. He expects them to learn quickly and show a lot of improvement from Scrimmage 1 to Scrimmage 2 this Saturday.

"It's not rocket science," he said. "It's just experience that they've got to continue to develop."

Tennessee quarterbacks typically wear green jerseys in scrimmages, designating them not to be hit. Fulmer said earlier this spring that the green shirts would come off in one scrimmage, forcing the QBs to "go live." That would enable him to see how well they avoid and handle contact. Now the head man is reconsidering that plan.

Asked if the QBs will go live in this weekend's scrimmage, he replied: "I don't think so ... not where we are with our protections and things. Not yet. Coach Clawson is trying to talk me out of it."


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