The perfect fit

Perhaps Dave Clawson's greatest strength as an offensive coordinator is this: He's too smart to try and force a square peg into a round hole.

That point, made several times during spring practice, was hammered home again when Clawson recently was asked how good a fit junior quarterback Jonathan Crompton is for the Vols' West Coast offense.

"We've got to make sure the offense is a good fit for HIM," Clawson said, answering without hesitation. "Right now he's our most talented quarterback and has the most experience, so we've got to adjust the offense in ways that take advantage of what he does well."

Although Crompton got very little opportunity to show what he could do in real games the past three seasons, he has shown enough on the practice field to convince Clawson that he's quite capable of directing the Vol attack.

"He's got enough physical skill," the first-year coordinator said. "He has a good arm and a quick release. He moves his feet well. I think he can make plays with his feet. I think he can protect himself. He's big enough and strong enough to take hits."

Given that Crompton has the physical and mental tools to succeed, the key is simply to put him in situations that exploit his strengths and mask his weaknesses.

"The big thing," Clawson said, "is just to make sure we develop a package he's real comfortable with ... one that he can go out and execute for 75 or 80 plays per game."

Clawson believes he is developing that package. He also believes Crompton is developing better decision-making skills after suffering some growing pains last spring.

"He made a lot of great throws, had a lot of real productive sessions," Clawson recalled. "It was just that one thing ... taking care of the ball. He'd grade out at 88 or 92 percent but those three minuses weren't little minuses.

"They were big minuses – he went the wrong way on a run play, took a wrong first step, forced the ball into a two-deep coverage, didn't see a rotation and threw the ball where it shouldn't go. That creates problems in the pass game."

Once Crompton eliminates these mental miscues, his biggest problem might be determining which of the Vols' six returning wide receivers will be his go-to guy.

"I wouldn't know who to say," he said recently. "We've got eight or nine guys who can legitimately play, so I try to throw to everybody. I kind of spread the reps around to all of them equally."

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