Mental makeover

The key to fixing any problem is knowing what went wrong. And that may be the most encouraging aspect of Tennessee's just-concluded spring football practice.

When asked about the interception he threw in Saturday's Orange & White Game, senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton immediately answered: "It was a miscommunication ... everything about it. We'll go back and we'll correct it."

That was in stark contrast to last spring, when such questions routinely were met with a shrug and a mumbled "I honestly don't know."

Although the Vols are still learning to execute new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's pro-style attack, they at least understand it. And that's a critical step in the process.

Chaney put it this way: "When we turn on the video and say, 'What is the issue here? Why isn't this route timed properly?' and they can answer the question why, then we're on the right page. We're getting a lot closer to that."

Even though Tennessee's defense won more battles than it lost during spring practice, the offense was far more competitive than it was last spring. When asked how he would compare the feeling coming out of this spring to the feeling coming out of last spring, Crompton replied: "To be honest, I don't want to comment on last spring. I just want to focus on the now."

Fair enough. So, how do the Vols feel about the offensive strides they made this spring?

"Right now we feel pretty good," Crompton answered. "We're feeling more comfortable with each other. Now that practice is over we're going to get in the film room, go throw when we can on our own. The more comfortable we become with each other, the more comfortable the offense becomes."

Crompton completed 14 of 27 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. B. J. Coleman was 13 of 22 for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Stephens was 11 of 21 for 131 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, the running backs averaged 4.4 yards per carry en route to 231 rushing yards.

Asked if the outstanding output could be traced to superior execution by the offense or the limitations placed on the defense, Crompton compromised.

"It was a mixture of both," he said. "We are getting more comfortable with the offense and with each other within the offense. I think that helps a tremendous amount. I think more so we're getting more comfortable with each other."

Turnovers and sacks plagued Tennessee's previous scrimmages. Thus, the fact there was only one turnover and two sacks on Saturday should give the offensive players quite a mental lift.

"That's what you want coming out of the spring game and going into the summer," Crompton said. "You want to have a good taste in your mouth, some confidence going in, so when fall camp comes around you're more confident with the offense. You feel like you're still in a rhythm."


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