Crompton will be fine

Tennessee's top six wide receivers from 2007 are back for '08, but the offensive coordinator, the scheme and the quarterback are new. Many observers believe this will create significant adjustment problems.

Josh Briscoe respectfully disagrees.

Briscoe caught 56 passes last fall, tying Austin Rogers for runnerup honors behind Lucas Taylor (73). Briscoe led the team in receiving touchdowns (6) and thus qualifies as something of an expert on the Vol passing attack. In his expert opinion, the insertion of a new coordinator (Dave Clawson), a new scheme (West Coast) and a new quarterback (Jonathan Crompton) has not been a problem. In fact, he says the new coordinator, the new QB and the veteran receivers are adjusting beautifully to one another.

"We're doing a great job of getting together as a receiver corps with the quarterback to go over the little things," he said. "We've met a lot and we've had seven on sevens (passing drills with no linemen)."

After four years of Erik Ainge at quarterback, some fans wonder how long Tennessee's pass catchers will require to develop precision timing with Crompton. Not long, apparently.

"We've sat down and talked with Crompton about what he's thinking and where we should be at all times," noted Briscoe, a 6-3, 183-pound senior from Lawndale, N.C. "We just want to go out this fall camp and hope we benefit from what we did in the spring."

Getting comfortable with a new quarterback can be tricky but Crompton is easing the transition by forcefully asserting himself. He's letting the receivers know exactly what he expects of them and what they can expect of him.

"Jonathan takes charge more than Erik did," Briscoe said. "He demands a lot out of us. He's a great competitor and he's thinking like a leader. He's going to go out and challenge us every step of the way."

After three years spent waiting his turn behind Ainge, Crompton has burst out of the starting gate now that he's "The Man" on offense. The change in his personality is dramatic.

"He's stepping up a lot," Briscoe said. "He's demanding a lot from this receiving corps, running backs, linebackers. Offense AND defense ... he's demanding a lot. He's waited three years and now it's his time to play, so he's coming out and taking that challenge, taking that pressure (to lead) upon himself."

Crompton is quite a departure from his predecessor in terms of quarterbacking style. He'll hold the ball longer to give his receiver time to get open. He'll scramble rather than throw the ball away. He'll try to "thread the needle" in tight spots and he'll go deep without hesitation. He'll also throw the ball with a lot more velocity than Ainge did.

"The ball spins a different way with every quarterback," Briscoe noted, "and some quarterbacks put a lot more power into their throws."

Because Crompton tends to hold the ball longer and deliver it quicker, Tennessee's receivers spent much of spring practice adjusting to these changes. They'll resume the process when preseason drills begin Aug. 2.

"We're working on timing," Briscoe said. "But we've had seven and one-half months to get ready, to get the timing down with Crompton and get used to his passes. We've worked hard this offseason – three days a week seven-on-seven – so I think we're where we need to be heading into fall camp.

"When we go into two-a-days, there won't be no surprises."


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