Bouncing back

If you've ever seen one of those bottom-weighted punching bags that bounces back up so it can be knocked down again ... well, that's essentially what Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton looked like in Friday's scrimmage.

Crompton was sacked by linebacker LaMarcus Thompson on the third play of the workout and by safety Dennis Rogan on the fourth play. That was an omen of things to come.

After being sacked by end Chris Walker on the second play of his next possession, Crompton actually found time to complete an eight-yard throw to tailback Montario Hardesty.

Crompton didn't attempt to pass again until the opening play of his third possession, when he was sacked by Walker for a safety. His next attempt to pass came on the opening play of his fourth possession, when he was sacked by tackle Montori Hughes.

After throwing an incompletion on the final play of possession No. 4, Crompton was sacked and stripped by Ben Martin on the second snap of possession No. 5.

To recap: The first eight times Jonathan Crompton attempted to throw the football in Friday's scrimmage produced one completion, one incompletion, six sacks, a safety and a lost fumble.

Like that weighted punching bag, though, Crompton kept bouncing back up. And, to his credit, he managed to stay mostly upright the rest of the afternoon. He completed seven of his final nine pass attempts and was sacked but once, barely finishing with more completions (8) than sacks (7).

Later, when asked about the woeful pass protection accorded him by the No. 1 offensive line, Crompton chose his words carefully.

"We're still in a learning curve right now," he said. "We're hesitating sometimes when we call certain things. We're trying to get out here and learn on the run. When it happens one time, it's OK. We know what happened and we won't do it again ... and the next time it won't happen."

Still, the numbers are sobering: Of the 18 times he attempted to throw the football, Crompton was sacked on seven of them. Rather than fault his blockers, however, the senior quarterback praised the defenders.

"Our first-team defense ... they're outstanding," he said. "That's why they're at Tennessee. They proved it last year ... that they were good enough."

Although last year's No. 1 defense never recorded seven sacks in a single scrimmage, Crompton hinted that last year's stop unit wasn't capable of applying the constant pressure that this year's is.

"Especially with the defensive staff we've got in this year," he said, "that's what we expect."

After a brief pause, Crompton added: "We also expect a whole heck of a lot out of our offense. That's part of it, so we're going to come out here and compete every day."

Although Tennessee's No. 1 defense has generally dominated the offense this spring, the No. 1 attack unit has shown occasional flashes. Those flashes haven't occurred with enough frequency to create a sense of well-being, however, as spring practice heads into its final week.

"Everybody, including myself, these last two practices and the spring game, needs to have great practices," Crompton said. "We don't need good ones; we need GREAT ones to end this spring practice the right way – going into mini-camp and then summer feeling really good about it."

Toward that end, the Vols should be studying hard the rest of this weekend as they prepare for workouts on Tuesday and Thursday, followed by Saturday's Orange & White Game.

"I know everybody will get in their playbooks," Crompton said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to work on a paper and get in my playbook all weekend."

Perhaps his teammates will do the same. If so, Crompton might be able to spend more time on his feet than on his backside during the remainder of spring practice.


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