Crompton passes first test

Things will only get easier for Tennessee's No. 1 quarterback. He projects to be better in the months ahead, and the competition projects to be worse.

Jonathan Crompton's first full-scale scrimmage of preseason camp Saturday at Neyland Stadium produced some imposing numbers (12 of 16 passing for 114 yards) but it also produced an interception, an interception nullified by a quick whistle and a near-interception.

The mistakes were understandable. Like the practice jersey he was wearing, Crompton is green – a third-year junior with just one career start to his credit. Moreover, he was operating a newly installed West Coast offense against the finest secondary (Tennessee's) he will face all year.

"That's what you want," he said. "You want to go against the best. You've got to beat the best to be the best. I think we have a pretty good secondary back there, flying around and making plays.

"That's what you want. If you play against them every day in practice, it's only going to make you better for games."

Facing Tennessee's defensive backs already appears to be benefiting Crompton, whose passing was surprisingly crisp for an opening scrimmage. Of his four incompletions, one was dropped by a receiver, one was batted at the line of scrimmage and one was a throwaway to avoid a sack. In other words, he was pretty close to being 15 of 16.

Crompton's finest moment came when he fooled everyone at Neyland Stadium with a brilliant play fake, then rolled to his left and hit Austin Rogers for a 15-yard gain. He clearly understands that a good fake can be just as important as a good pass or a good decision.

"Being a quarterback, you've got to be on your game in every aspect of your game," he explained, "so I'm trying to get better at all the little things."

Naturally, Tennessee's offense still needs a lot of work on the little things. The attack unit moved the ball well Saturday afternoon but struggled to get the ball into the end zone, often due to its own miscues.

"The biggest jump you've got to make is from the first scrimmage to the second," Crompton noted, "so that's what we've got to do next Saturday."

After just one spring and one week of fall camp in Dave Clawson's new West Coast attack, Crompton seems to be gaining familiarity and confidence. Except for the interception, the nullified interception and the near-interception, he appeared poised and comfortable.

"I think Jon's a little TOO comfortable, actually," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I want the ball (thrown) out quickly sometimes and I want him to run the ball like he did there at the end ... where he pulled the ball down and made a play (eight-yard gain). I thought he had a really good scrimmage, numbers-wise, but you can't turn it over."

Clawson touched on the same theme, noting that "Jonathan probably will grade out pretty high, but the two or three minuses are backbreakers."

Like Fulmer and Clawson, Crompton wanted to review the scrimmage film before offering an in-depth analysis of the offensive performance and his contribution to it.

"As a whole, I think everybody played hard," he said. "We made some plays here and there but didn't make plays at some points. That's part of it. That's the first scrimmage; we'll only get better."

And the competition – at least in the secondary – will only get worse.

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