Critiquing Crompton

Tennessee football fans who have given up on the first-team quarterback one game into the 2008 season need a little refresher course.

While Jonathan Crompton's Game 1 numbers in Monday night's 27-24 overtime loss at UCLA were mediocre – 19 of 42 for 189 yards – they look downright stellar compared to those Tee Martin put up (9 of 26 for 143 yards) in the Vols' 1998 opener at Syracuse. Yet, Martin bounced back and led that '98 team to a 13-0 record and the national title.

This is not to suggest that Crompton will lead Tennessee to a national title or even to a winning record. It's merely a reminder that one game does not a season make.

Just as some fans were calling for Burney Veazey to replace Martin one game into the '98 season, several are suggesting a quick hook for Crompton in '08. Tennessee's head coach finds such talk laughable.

"He's by far our most ready quarterback and he's done a nice job," Phillip Fulmer said. "He's had one game, thrown one interception. I think he'll be fine."

Even if Fulmer weren't sold on Crompton, the backups are nowhere near ready to assume the top job. The head man doesn't even know if sophomore Nick Stephens or redshirt freshman B. J. Coleman would be first off the bench should Crompton leave a game due to injury or ineffectiveness.

"No. It's an ongoing process," Fulmer said. "Neither one of them are 100 percent ready but they're both getting a good amount of reps."

The head coach conceded that Crompton, a fourth-year junior, was not sharp – physically or mentally – in Game 1. He made some poor throws and made several rookie mistakes. Foremost among them were a fumbled third-and-one snap that killed a drive, an interception and an eight-yard, third-down sack that pushed Tennessee out of field-goal range.

"I thought he had some really good plays," Fulmer said, "and he had two or three plays that will get you beat – the fumbled snap, the interception backed up and taking the sack when you're in field-goal range.

"Those are things a quarterback has got to manage. He also had some really good passes, some really good plays. He handled the check system really good in a hostile environment. There were good things and there were a couple of things he's got to improve on."

Crompton sailed several passes over the heads of his receivers and one-hopped some others to them, suggesting he and his pass catchers might not have been on the same page mentally. Fulmer, however, dismissed this notion with a shake of his head.

"They were on the same page," he said. "We didn't have any of THAT problem."

The Vols did have a problem protecting Crompton, though. A line that allowed just four sacks in 2007 failed to maintain a safe pocket in the 2008 opener. As a result, Crompton took such a pounding that he was withheld from practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

"He got hit way too many times last Monday night," Fulmer said. "But he'll be ready to go Sunday (when the Vols begin preparation for the home opener vs. UAB)."

Crompton might not have taken so many hits in Game 1 if he'd had his usual level of mobility. A lingering ankle sprain kept him stationary for the most part. Fulmer conceded that the Vols might have called more rollout passes without the ankle problem but declined to use it as an excuse.

"That was one of the concerns going into the game – how much you would do that," the head man said. "But he scrambled a couple of times (once for a 10-yard gain) and did fine."


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