Crompton ready to lead?

You can't always tell much about a spring scrimmage, but I do know this: Tennessee will destroy UCLA if the Bruins play their second-team defense.

Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton destroyed Tennessee's second-team defense during Saturday's Orange and White game. He hit Denarius Moore on the game's first play for a 74-yard touchdown. He found Josh Briscoe on an 18-yard slant for a touchdown. He found Briscoe again for a 31-yard score.

Crompton was 13 of 20 for 266 yards and three scores as the offense scored on five of six first-half possessions.

Crompton did his damage against the backups. At the same time, it was his best performance of the spring. His second-best was last weekend when he went 17-for-22 – also against the No. 2 defense.

That's an encouraging sign. It indicates Crompton is picking up the new scheme of new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

Yes, Crompton's work is coming against the second team. But if you're throwing slants or deep balls or out routes with pinpoint accuracy, that's noteworthy against a Grasshopper league.

``It was good to see Jonathan in that type of rhythm,'' Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.

Something else happened to Crompton on Saturday. He threw an interception over the middle early in the third quarter to taint an otherwise brilliant day.

It's that kind of mistake Crompton must eliminate to take his game to the next level. Clawson will tell you that Crompton is a tremendous athlete with an outstanding arm. Former UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe told us Crompton was flawless the last six weeks of regular-season practice.

But Crompton is prone to turnovers.

He committed them during several mop up roles last year. He committed them earlier in the spring. He had a big one last Saturday during a scrimmage. He had one in the Orange and White game.

``Some interceptions you can live with,'' Clawson said. ``If you're at midfield and throw the ball 55 yards and it's intercepted, that's one thing. But any time you throw one inside the 20s, that takes points away from you or gives it to them.''

Crompton's pick was near midfield by linebacker LaMarcus Thompson. While Crompton buried his head in his hands, Thompson returned the errant throw 34 yards, inside the Tennessee 30. Crompton assisted on the tackle.

After watching Crompton in the first of three Saturday spring scrimmages, I didn't feel he was as prepared to lead the team the way Tee Martin was in 1998. Maybe that's because I could watch every practice back then, and I had a better feel for what Martin could do. He had been in the same system for two years. He had a strong – though sometimes erratic – arm. And if his passes weren't on the money, he was money with his feet. He could break off a 50-yard run when in trouble, as he did at Syracuse.

Crompton can't break off a 50-yard run, but I'm more impressed with him now than ever. Maybe he is as prepared as Martin. Maybe working under a third offensive coordinator in four years slowed his progress. Maybe he is ready to take charge of an offense that has all the other pieces in place.

Crompton wasn't the only offensive highlight. Wide receiver Gerald Jones played quarterback in the spread option, and not only had a nice 12-yard run, but threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Moore.

It was a beautiful play, but not my favorite. Why in the world do you show that play when you know UCLA is watching somewhere on TV?

Not smart. Some might argue it gives UCLA something else to work on. I say use it against an unsuspecting UCLA for a touchdown – which could be crucial in what figures to be a close game – and give Florida something to think about.

Why use it in a meaningless spring game?

By running it in the scrimmage, you can bet the Vols won't use it against UCLA. And those potential seven points could come in handy.

So what else did we learn about Tennessee in the Orange and White game?

We learned the Vols have some big-time athletes – especially at receiver and in the secondary. If there is as better safety tandem in the SEC than Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley, I'd like to see it. Each had an interception.

We learned Tennessee still must improve its run game. ``I'm not really happy with the way we ran the football overall,'' Fulmer said. Lennon Creer led all backs with 59 yards on 10 carries. True freshman Tauren Poole had 52 yards on 12 carries.

We learned that Briscoe could be a big-play threat. He had 72 yards on four catches.

And we learned Tennessee has a ways to go to be a championship-caliber team.

We've still got some challenges in front of us this summer,'' Fulmer said.

But he can rest a big easier knowing the strides made by Crompton


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