Jones endorses both QBs

No matter how good a receiver might be, his success ultimately depends on the play of his quarterback. The more good passes the QB makes, the more catches the wideout makes.

That gives junior Gerald Jones a vested interest in Tennessee's ongoing quarterback derby. He looms as the "go-to receiver" for 2009 after catching a team-best 30 passes in 2008. For what it's worth, Jones expects to catch plenty of balls this fall, whether senior Jonathan Crompton or junior Nick Stephens is the starting QB.

"I have all the faith in the world in both of 'em," he said following Thursday's practice. "I trust that they'll go in there and do the right thing. We (receivers) have gotten plenty of reps with Nick and plenty with Crompton, so the timing is perfect with both of 'em. Whoever is in the game, we'll be ready."

To ensure that all of Tennessee's receivers are comfortable with each quarterback, the staff split the wideout corps so that the half who work with Crompton one day will work with Stephens the next.

"We just have everybody rotate," Jones noted. "Each day we switch what quarterback we'll get the timing down with, so the timing's right."

Although a stable quarterback situation is cleary preferable, Jones believes the ongoing competition between Crompton and Stephens has its advantages. For one thing, it's keeping both players focused and sharp.

"Most definitely," he said. "When the competition level is that high, there's very little room for error. That's what you need from your quarterback. He's the leader of this team and he's the brain of this offense, so we need less error."

Jones seems genuinely convinced that Tennessee will have a solid first-team quarterback this fall. Just as importantly, he's convinced that Tennessee will have a solid second-team quarterback this fall.

"He's just one play away from getting in," Jones noted, "so he's got to be just as good as the first guy."

Saturday's scrimmage will be the first time UT's coaches signal in the play calls from the sidelines. Jones has been learning the signals, even though only the quarterbacks need to know them.

"I don't have to know 'em; I just want to learn 'em," he said. "I want to make sure I know 'em. Just in case they (quarterbacks) call the wrong play, I can say, 'Hey, that wasn't the signal.'"

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