When Jonathan Crompton takes the opening snap Monday night in Pasadena he will be making his second career start. The previous start was Nov. 11, 2006, when he guided the Vols in a 31-14 loss at Arkansas. He also played the final three quarters of a 28-24 loss to LSU the previous weekend due to Erik Ainge's ankle injury. Last season, however, Crompton was relegated to cameo roles.
So, how much carryover is there from an experience that occurred 21 months ago? More than you'd expect, Fulmer believes.
"I think it's helped a lot," the head man said. "He had a week of preparation to prepare himself for that one ball game (Arkansas) and, really, you can count the LSU game here because he got a lot of work in that week. Erik went out after seven or eight plays and Jon came in and did a nice job, gave us a chance to win the game.
"I think that's a real plus for us. And we put great stock in our practice work. For two years he's gotten every other snap in practice, so I think that's important, as well."
Fulmer believes Crompton has made significant strides since spring practice ended, particularly in terms of decision-making.
"He's playing practice like a game," the head coach said. "He's not having those balls that he tries to force into situations and lets the defense get their hands on the ball."
As for Crompton's physical abilities, those have never been questioned.
"He's always had the great arm and he throws the ball on time," Fulmer said. "He can make all the throws, whether it's downfield, intermediate or laying it off. He's very accurate. He sees the field well, doesn't get locked into one guy."
First-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson conceded that Crompton has had "a really good camp," but is concerned about the depth behind him. Neither sophomore Nick Stephens nor redshirt freshman B. J. Coleman has won the staff's trust thus far.
So, what happens if Crompton gets the wind knocked out of him Monday night?
"Who would play and when they would play depends on the situation and how they finish practice this week," Clawson said. "If something would happen to Jonathan we would need both of those guys, so we'll continue to get both of them ready. It's been back and forth. I didn't feel at any point that one guy clearly rose above the other.
"Obviously, if Jonathan goes down one of them has to play. As of now, it hasn't been decided who and when."