Crompton's coronation

Tennessee's heir-apparent at quarterback had heard the whispers: "If he's so good, why couldn't he beat out Erik Ainge?"

Still, Jonathan Crompton wasn't looking to prove his ability in Saturday's Orange & White Game. He merely wanted to SHOWCASE his ability.

He accomplished that mission on the game's very first snap, throwing a perfect strike to Denarius Moore for a 74-yard touchdown.

Take that, skeptics ...

"That was my goal: Getting in early, saying, 'Hey, I know what I can do,' and just play ball," Crompton said after guiding the White to a 38-16 romp.

Crompton finished the first quarter 6 of 7 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the game 13 of 20 for 266 yards and three TDs. And it all started with those first-play fireworks.

"That's what we wanted to do," he said. "We wanted to take a shot deep on the first play, depending on the coverage. If it wasn't there, lay it off. But it was there, so we took a shot and pretty much set it up for the rest of the day to kind of sling the ball around a little bit."

Crompton did not look like a first-team college quarterback in Tennessee's first two spring scrimmages – completing just 7 of 15 passes for 55 yards with an interception in No. 1 and throwing three more interceptions in No. 2. He and his receivers did not appear to be on the same page. This was due in part to a new West Coast Offense which was only partially installed.

"That's the thing: You've got to get the whole thing in.... instead of just running five plays for a day, then the next day running five more," Crompton said. "Once we got it all in, we started settling down and getting better."

The improvement was dramatic. The timing in the passing game was much sharper in Scrimmage No. 3 on April 12 as Crompton completed 17 of 22 passes for 146 yards. If you combined those numbers with his O&W stats, the 6-4, 220-pound junior was 30 of 42 for 412 yards in his last two outings.

"That's what we worked on all spring – getting the timing down with the routes," Crompton explained. "We came out and showed it the first play."

Whereas Crompton's best pass on Saturday was his first, his worst pass was his last. He took a little shine off an otherwise brilliant performance by trying to force a ball over the middle to tight end Luke Stocker that was picked off by linebacker LaMarcus Thompson.

Asked after the game if he performed up to his expectations, Crompton paused thoughtfully, then shook his head.

"No," he said. "I threw an interception. So, no."

Still, he was encouraged by the offensive showing. He guided the first-team attack to 35 first-half points before the White team's coaches took their foot off the accelerator a bit.

"We just tried to end spring on a good note, and that's what we did," Crompton said. "We were trying to bring in the offseason on a high note."

A major concern anytime there's a change at quarterback is how the new guy manages the offense. Getting the play from the sideline, getting it called correctly and getting it underway without incurring delay-of-game penalties is harder than it looks from the stands. Crompton excelled at these things on Saturday.

"I don't know if we had any delay of games," he said. "I think we did a pretty good job. I was trying to get in and and out of the huddle as quick as possible. Of what I noticed I was snapping the ball at around 10 seconds (left on the play clock) each time. That's what we need if we're going to audible ... we need 10 to 12 seconds."

Only 90 percent of new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson's West Coast Offense was installed during spring practice. Regardless, Crompton sees tremendous flexibility and multiplicity in the new scheme.

"We can do anything we want every week, depending on the game plan," he said. "That's what the offense is going to be like ... a lot of different things – multiple sets, different plays, one extreme to the other, things like that."

Nothing is set in stone but Crompton probably locked up the No. 1 quarterback job with his strong showing in the final two scrimmages. He was typically low-key, however, when asked about being "The Guy" on offense:

"When you know it's your offense, you have that little voice in the back of your head saying, 'Just play ball. Just play your game. You know the situation. Be smart. It's your team. Let's play.'"

After some struggles earlier this spring, Jonathan Crompton appears ready to do just that.

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