"He's got tremendous physical skills," offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said. "The job of managing the quarterback position and managing the offense is where I think he made the most strides this spring and yet still needs to make the most strides as we head into the fall."
In three years on campus – one as a redshirt and two as Erik Ainge's understudy – Crompton has started just one game. That was against Arkansas in 2006. He scarcely broke a sweat in '07, completing seven of 12 passes for 97 yards.
The transition from the backup role Crompton played in '07 to the starting role he projects to play in '08 is similar to the transition from running a lap around the block to running a marathon. In other words, there's no comparison.
"It's one thing to be a quarterback that goes in late in the game and you play 10 or 15 plays," Clawson said. "It's another challenge playing the quarterback position for 65, 70, 75, 80 plays and managing a game for that long. There's no other way to learn that other than to do it."
Managing a game is no simple task, yet Phillip Fulmer believes Crompton made excellent progress in that area during Tennessee's just-concluded spring practice. In fact, the head man said Crompton's greatest strides since last fall have come in terms of "his execution, the understanding of the offense, getting the ball out quick and getting the ball to playmakers, which is what we said we wanted to do from the very beginning."
Crompton's spring did not start on a promising note. He completed just 7 of 15 passes in the first full-scale scrimmage and threw three interceptions in the second. He finished with a flourish, however, completing 17 of 22 passes in Scrimmage No. 3, then going 13 of 20 for 266 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in the Orange & White Game. Fulmer thought the latter was Crompton's finest hour.
"He's had a tremendous spring and (the O&W Game) kind of capped it off," the head man said. "I still pointed out to him that he's got to take care of the football a little bit better than he did, but it was great what he did in the early part of the scrimmage.
"To have that one play (a third-quarter interception) is kind of a downer, but he is definitely our quarterback and definitely a guy who has shown the ability to run the offense."
When asked if the O&W Game was an accurate representation of where Crompton is as a quarterback, however, Clawson shrugged.
"I don't know if it's completely accurate because the defense was limited in what they did," the coordinator said. "Every game we play the defense will be more multiple. When they're simple on defense, that makes the decision-making process easier. With what he faced, he did make a lot of good decisions."
Those decisions will be more difficult come fall, when they must be made with 100,000 fans screaming and 275-pound defensive ends closing in. That's when Vol coaches will find out once and for all if Jonathan Crompton has the management skills to be the department head of Tennessee's offense.
SURGERY A SUCCESS
Crompton recently underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow at UT Medical Center. He is expected to be throwing again in three to five weeks, according to team trainer Jason McVeigh.