Crompton's comeback bid

The sun didn't shine Saturday afternoon at Haslam Field but Tennessee's most experienced quarterback certainly did.

Rising senior Jonathan Crompton, the primary whipping boy for the 2008 Vols' offensive woes, was one of the standouts in Saturday's first major scrimmage – showing flashes of the form that made him an elite prospect as a high school senior in Waynesville, N.C., four years ago.

Criticized for indecisiveness and inability to see the field last fall, Crompton appeared improved in both areas during the scrimmage, despite playing with a wet football in sloppy conditions.

Head coach Lane Kiffin said Crompton played "extremely well," especially in one crucial area.

"Decision making," the coach said. "He's making really good decisions with the ball – very few turnovers, getting the ball where it should be and handling the offense. When he's in there he's had very good control of what's going on with the offense, and I think the guys are responding to him."

Two factors probably have contributed most to Crompton's progress – health and comfort level.

After playing almost all of 2008 on a bad ankle, his health is the best it has been in a long time.

"It is," he conceded. "I feel good out here playing ball. I'm 100 percent ready to play."

And, after struggling to grasp Dave Clawson's West Coast offense last season, Crompton is finding Kiffin's new pro-style attack a much better fit for his skills. He's doing less thinking and more reacting.

"It lets our keys make our decisions for us, and we just throw the ball," he said. "That's all we've got to do. If we hand it off and throw it like we're supposed to, that's all we've got to do. It's a little more complex than it sounds but it's a good offense and we're loving it."

Whereas Crompton and his offensive mates never seemed comfortable with the West Coast offense, they appear to be picking up the pro-style attack with surprising ease.

"As fast as we can," Crompton said. "Everybody's doing a good job – studying their playbook, getting in the film room extra, getting to meetings early, coming out here (practice field) early so we can go through it as a team.

"I think everybody's adjusted to it well. We've kind of thrown everything from the past out. We're willing to learn and we're loving every bit of it."

Like his teammates, Crompton exhibits a lot more confidence in the 2009 offensive scheme than he had in the 2008 scheme. Whereas Clawson's '08 scheme won a lot of games at Div. I-AA Richmond, Kiffin's '09 scheme won Div. I-A national titles at Southern Cal.

"Obviously, he (Kiffin) knows what he's talking about; he's won championships before," Crompton said. "We're trying to practice at a championship level because we know what we're capable of doing. And we're trying to have fun doing it."

No Vol seems to be having more fun than these days than former whipping boy Jonathan Crompton.


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