'Quarterback friendly'

No matter how many lights were turned on at Neyland Stadium last fall, Tennessee's quarterbacks appeared to be stumbling around in the dark.

To say they never got the hang of first-year coordinator Dave Clawson's West Coast scheme might be the understatement of the decade. Whether the scheme was too complex or the QBs were too dense is immaterial. The fact is, the passers and pass catchers never found their way onto the same page, resulting in a meager 49.5-percent completion rate and a paltry 17.3 points per game en route to a 5-7 record.

Exit Phil Fulmer and Clawson. Enter Lane Kiffin and Jim Chaney.

Kiffin and Chaney are installing a new pro-style attack this spring that is more about making plays than making reads ... more about acting than reacting ... more about out-executing than outsmarting opponents.

The early returns are promising. Scholarship quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and B. J. Coleman combined to complete 74 percent of their pass attempts in the first workout and connected on a similar percentage in practice No. 2. Both slipped a bit in workout No. 3 but that was largely due to a potent pass rush that disrupted their rhythm. Regardless, the QBs think this year's attack will be a lot more successful than last year's.

"I think this offense is a little more quarterback-friendly," said Crompton, a rising fifth-year senior. "Obviously, I've got to get more into it but, as of right now, that's what it feels like. Our eyes and shoulder kind of make the reads for us. I like that. Every day just feels more and more comfortable. I'm out there having fun."

Incredibly, Chaney is Crompton's fourth coordinator in five years. He learned Randy Sanders' system in 2005, David Cutcliffe's in 2006 and '07, then Clawson's in '08. Now he's picking up a whole new scheme. So far, he likes it a lot.

"We've only got a minimal amount of the offense down, so obviously we're going to look better right now because we're only running a certain amount of plays," Crompton said. "Once we get the whole thing in and we're comfortable, I think we're going to be fine. It's a quarterback-friendly offense, and we're going to have fun playing in it."

Tennessee's attack is essentially the same one Southern Cal played when Kiffin was the Trojans' offensive coordinator, and it made superstars of guys such as Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.

"We're very excited to be in this offense," Crompton said. "Look at the numbers it put up in the past: In one season you've got a 3,500-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers."

He's right ... almost. The 2005 season saw Bush post 1,740 rushing yards and White another 1,319. Leinart registered 3,815 passing yards and Jarrett recorded 1,274 receiving yards. Smith just missed being a 1,000-yard receiver, finishing at 957.

"We know the capability of the offense," Crompton said. "It's just a matter of how much we put in ourselves. That's what motivates us. It's going to be fun doing it."

Clearly, Crompton is sold on the new attack scheme. Do his teammates feel the same way?

"Oh, yes," he said. "Everybody knows the capability of this offense, and everybody's really excited to learn from these coaches that have so many accolades. I think there's 11 or 12 national championships and one Super Bowl championship in our coaching staff, which is a great, great accomplishment. We know what we have here, so we're just trying to learn from it."

Because the Vols know what they're doing this spring, they are more instinctive and less tentative. As a result, the pace of practice is brisk and the mood is energetic.

"Oh, yeah," Crompton said. "We get into the practice; we're flowing with it. We know what we've got to do and what we're doing. We've got this much time and we're trying to get as many plays in as we can in a short amount of time."

As a result, there's no more stumbling around in the dark.


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