Mobility matters

One play in Saturday's scrimmage may have determined who the starting quarterback will be in Tennessee's Sept. 5 season opener vs. Western Kentucky.

Flushed from the pocket, Jonathan Crompton scrambled to his left. Thinking the quarterback was going to run, a safety raced upfield a few steps, temporarily leaving fullback Kevin Cooper open. Still on the run, Crompton lobbed a 46-yard strike over the safety that Cooper hauled in at the 14-yard line. Tennessee scored three plays later.

Crompton's mobility forced the safety to commit to stopping the run, enabling Cooper to get open and Crompton to produce a big play. And that ability to make plays with his feet, as well as his arm, could be the edge that earns Crompton the first-team QB job for Game 1.

"Everything's in the coaches' hands," he said following the workout, "and we'll just go from there."

Still, Crompton conceded that mobility is a key part of his game.

"It's something I pride myself on - being able to move and throw," he said. "I don't have to run for 40 yards, as long as I can move in the pocket and make a play. That's something our receivers do a good job of - keeping the play alive. (They) don't just turn around and block. (They) look for an open lane, and let's see if we can find 'em."

Lane Kiffin was noncommittal on the quarterback battle following the scrimmage but conceded that Crompton's mobility can be a valuable dimension.

"He made some plays on the move, which was good to see," the Vols' head man said. "Sometimes in practice those don't happen as much because the rush stops, so it was good to see him make some plays."

After losing the first-team job four games into the 2008 season, then reclaiming it six games later, Crompton takes nothing for granted. When asked to assess his performance, he spoke of the offense as a unit.

"You've got to come out here and compete, and I think that's what everybody did out here today," he said. "Right now we feel OK. We've just got to go back, watch the film and correct our mistakes."

Unofficially, Crompton completed 17 of 31 passes in the scrimmage for 267 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. His chief competition, junior Nick Stephens, was 10 of 18 for 101 yards.

Now playing in his fifth offense in five years and under his fourth coordinator in five years, Crompton conceded that "I feel as comfortable as I can be right now in this offense."

For the first time all preseason, Kiffin did not provide the play calls from a spot mere feet from the offensive huddle. Instead, he gave them to an aide, who relayed them from the sidelines to the huddle.

"I thought we did a pretty good job of managing that," Crompton said. "That's the first time - offense or defense - we haven't had the coaches out there. It was a test, and I think we passed so far."

Crompton and Stephens got little support from the ground game last fall. They apparently will get much more help this season. One 60-yard touchdown drive saw five runs pick up 45 yards. After a no-gain and a false-start penalty, Crompton threw his only pass of the drive - a short toss that Quintin Hancock turned into a 20-yard touchdown.

"In any good offense the run sets up the pass, and that's what we're trying to do," Crompton said. "The more you pass, the more they (safeties) are going to drop back. We've got to have a good running game. Our O-line is doing a pretty good job right now, our running backs are hitting the holes, and that opens up the passing game for us."


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